Not the Kansas you had in mind

Kansas Badlands self portrait
Logan County, Kansas

So you thought Kansas was flat, eh? Then click here for an eyefull…

You know the Kansas geographical clichés. Kansas is flat as a pancake. Kansas is one of the Drive Through States…

The Kansas you’re thinking of
West of Ransom, Kansas

Well, some of those old saws are true – in some parts of Kansas. But did you ever hear of the Kansas Badlands? Or did you ever walk across Kansas with a mule? And for that matter, where in Kansas would you go to make a photo of you and your mule greeting the sun in the lee of chalk pyramid?

Greeting the Kansas dawn

Recently, I visited with Chuck Bonner and Barbara Shelton of Logan County, Kansas.

Barbara Shelton
Logan County, Kansas

Barbara explained why the country side I was traversing was emptier now than it was during the Homestead Act days. Click here to listen to the interview. During our chat, she mentioned fossil beds. Fossil beds? Intrigued, I took a detour through Logan county to tour the sights no one outside Logan County really talks about.

What I found tied in perfectly with what I was seeking. I found the bottom of the Lost Sea.

Kansas Badlands: the bottom of the Lost Sea

Scientists say Kansas has been under water longer than it’s been dry. The Western Interior Sea, or Lost Sea, as I call it, covered the Great Plains about 75 million years ago. Then, theory has it, the land to the west of it rose, pushing the water back to the Gulf of Mexico. In the millions of years that followed, erosion from the Rocky Mountains covered the ancient sea bed.

The Lost Sea
Modern-day Kansas is in the light blue water south and west of South Dakota

Bernie films the Kansas Badlands
Logan County, Kansas

In some places, like Logan County Kansas, erosion removed the overburden, exposing the ancient sea bed – and the fossils interred there. It’s the same way badlands are formed in most areas, be they the famed badlands of South Dakota or the lesser known ones of the Sunflower State.

Badlands (foreground) and uneroded plain (distant)
Logan County, Kansas

One of the advantages this country is aerial views. Yes, the mule traveler that wants a bird’s eye view of his wagon just has to climb the nearest chalk uprise and look down.

Camped at the Little Pyramids
Logan County, Kansas

Canyon camp from above

But this country’s biggest draw is marine fossils like the X-fish, better known as the Xiphactinus (pronounced “zi fak tin us” by paleontologists).

Sternberg Museum

Coming next, Xiphactinus, the Lost Sea fish with the funny name and the bull dog face. A fish so ravenous, it was known to choke to death on its prey. Stay tuned!


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