As we planned our trip across Kansas, the nimble hiker was given an assignment – find some interesting things to see during our travels. She looked long and hard to find a Crested Saguaro Cactus without success. But her research did locate some rocks to visit. Yes, more rocks!
So Sunday morning we headed east for about thirty miles on I-70, then turned south for fifteen miles down a dirt road to visit Castle Rock. The road was smooth but there wasn’t much to see along the way except huge fields of corn and wheat.
Wildlife was a bit difficult to spot, but we did say hello to the group pictured below.
Finally, we came to the turn off for Castle Rock. Apparently this is not a highly visited area, as we didn’t see another person/vehicle for the entire ride on the dirt road and the intersection marking the turn to Castle Rock was a bit deserted.
The sign was a bit “low tech” but it did point us in the right direction (literally). Note the creative name of the road leading into the rocks.
Once we reached the rocks we were treated to a great view of what’s known as the Kansas Badlands.
Just to the north is the rock formation known as Castle Rock. Castle Rock was a landmark on the Butterfield Overland Dispatch route, a mail and freight service operating across the Great Plains in the 1860s. The Castle Rock limestone, chalk, and shale formation was deposited in the area by an ancient inland sea. It received its name because it is said to look like a castle rising above the prairie. Weathering of the rock formation is increasing due to visitors climbing on the rocks. In 2001, following a thunderstorm, the tallest spire fell.
One of the reasons there are very view visitors to Castle Rock is it’s remote location. Another reason is the poor condition of the road (path). We didn’t need four wheel drive, but high clearance was definitely required.
The nearby badlands area isn’t very large, but provided some interesting rock scrambling. The area is rich in fossils from the Cretaceous Sea which covered this land millions of years ago.
The high rock walls provided great nesting areas for small birds.
On the drive back to the highway, we spotted this sentinel keeping an eye on us as we passed by.
We returned to the interstate and drove back to Oakley, where we picked up highway 83 and drove twenty miles south to visit Monument Rocks. These formations are sometimes referred to as the Chalk Pyramids, and are officially recognized by the National Park Service as a National Natural Landmark. The formations reach a height of up to 70 ft. and include formations such a buttes and arches. The limestone that forms these rocks was also from the floor of the great inland sea that existed some 60 million years ago.
This formation is called Charlie the Dog.
There is a large arch called the Eye of the Needle.
Early settlers to the West had a practice of carving their names/initials in rock formations they found. We have seen this in a number of places in Utah, and spotted what we think are more examples of this practice on one of the walls of Monument Rocks.
Driving back through the little town of Oakley we had to stop at the Buffalo Bill Cultural Center, a cultural and visitor information center that opened last year. Buffalo Bill Cody’s connection to the area has to do with a contest held near Oakley in 1868. Apparently there were two men, Cody and William Comstock, killing buffalo to provide food to workers building a railroad across Kansas, and both were called “Buffalo Bill.” To determine who would be the real “Buffalo Bill” a contest was held to see who could kill the most buffalo in one day. Cody won the contest 69-46 and his legend was born.
The center was closed, as it was Sunday, but we really just wanted to check out the large sculpture of Cody killing a buffalo that is on display outside the building. The sculpture is approximately two times life-sized with the Buffalo Bill part of the sculpture standing sixteen feet tall.
And you thought there was nothing interesting to see in Kansas! OK, it wasn’t the most exciting adventure we have done during our travels, but it wasn’t too bad. We’ll stay here in Oakley one more day to do some cleaning in and out of the motorhome. Then we’ll continue east to Abilene to visit the Eisenhower Presidential Library.
More on that later . . .