The more we explore the Midwest, the more we discover that it is filled with surprises. For instance, how often do you hear people say that Kansas is flat and devoid of any significant landscape features? To many, you must travel to the coast or the Rockies to find amazing sights. Reality shows that this is far from the truth, and there are plenty of unusual spots scattered around the state. One prime example would be the Kansas Badlands, which hides from the sight of those passing by.
Welcome to Little Jerusalem
Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park is located about 60 miles east of the Colorado border. We used Oakley as a home base for exploring the geological formations that are commonplace in this region. An earlier visit to Monument Rocks had whetted our appetite for more, and we knew this place had to been seen to be believed. The drive from town takes about a half-hour, and the closer we got the more outcroppings we saw. Once at the park, we found clear signage for the two trails designed for exploring.
Long ago, this area was part of a huge inland sea. (You can learn more about that in this article from Hays.) That means that the ground is relatively level, which makes the hike fairly easy. The Kansas Badlands are actually somewhat below ground level, so we walked right up on them before they revealed themselves. Once we got closer, the magic of their formations began to unfold in front of us.
Our first sights were the chalk peaks that jutted out of the landscape. The layers of sediment were apparent on the sides of each formation. Cracked and worn with time, they stand as silent sentinels overlooking the grasslands. A nearby farmhouse reminded us that we were still in Kansas. As we hiked, we discussed how the early pioneers must have been surprised when they happened upon these formations. We wondered if they took the time to explore them for their natural beauty.
Nature at Work
It has taken many centuries of erosion to form the Kansas Badlands. As we took in the various effects created by nature, it reminded us of a smaller version of a canyon we visited near Amarillo, Texas. We decided to start our hike with the 1.2-mile overlook trail. It winds along the southern rim of the formations, before striking north into the heart of the park. Along the way, we spotted an assortment of signs that gave us insider information about the history of the formations.
During our visit, we met another couple from Kansas. They were also exploring the area for the first time and had the same awe feeling as we did. At this point, it would be a timely reminder to bring a camera or phone with plenty of storage space. You are going to find yourself taking a slew of photographs. It seemed like every step opened up a new angle or view. The formations are so unique and looking at them from different perspectives highlights a variety of characteristics.
Back to Nature
While the changing times have certainly affected the wildlife, it hasn’t left the area devoid of animals. During our visit it was extremely hot, so we imagine most of them were tucked away for comfort. The signage hinted at many of the interesting creatures that call Kansas Badlands home. This particular sign reminds visitors to take in the majesty of the space around them. As we stood silently observing, we could hear the calls of birds in the distance. Even an unseasonably warm day doesn’t prevent life from going on.
The idea that such a fantastic natural feature can remain nearly hidden from view still amazes us. Part of the mystery most likely revolves around the fact that this park is actually one of the newer ones for the state of Kansas. For generations, this was private farmland owned by a local family. It was only recently that they turned the space over to The Nature Conservancy. This allows visitors to commune with nature in a way that the family did for years. We are hopeful that we will get a chance for a return visit. Perhaps it will include a closer look with a prearranged tour by a park ranger.
Visit the Kansas Badlands
After taking in this natural wonder, we were left in awe of the power of nature. We consider a visit to the Kansas Badlands one of those trips that help people reconnect with the world around them. The admission for the park is $5.00 per vehicle and they have a self-pay station set up in the parking lot. If you are in possession of an annual Kansas State Park vehicle pass then you get to skip the admission. The trails are gravel-packed, so they are pretty easy to navigate. While the signage mentioned the wide array of wildlife that call this place home, they weren’t out much on the day we visited. We hope you have a chance to visit this unique Kansas sight. Travel safely!