8 Wonders of Kansas geography

An 8 Wonder of Kansas Geography

Post Rock Scenic Byway, Ellsworth, Lincoln & Russell counties

Website: www.ksbyways.org/Pages/Post/post1.html

Post Rock Scenic Byway is a finalist because...of the dramatic limestone outcroppings along K-232, the rugged Dakota sandstone bluffs at Lake Wilson, and the long post rock fence rows in this Smoky Hill region, anchored between Lucas and Wilson. 

Photo by Harland Schuster
Kansas Scenic Byways website

The Post Rock Scenic Byway is an eighteen-mile route that extends north and south on K-232 through the Smoky Hills of Ellsworth, Lincoln and Russell Counties in north central Kansas. K-232 is a two-lane asphalt surfaced road.  

The byway connects I-70 on the south with K-18 on the north and links the communities of Wilson (Ellsworth County) and Lucas (Russell County). This byway is named for the unique native limestone rocks used for fenceposts in the area.

The byway offers scenic, recreational, geological and agricultural viewing opportunities.

A six-mile segment of the byway is adjacent to the Wilson Lake recreational area with scenic turnouts that overlook the dam and offer vistas of the lake and the valley below the dam. Rest areas, trails, picnic areas and campgrounds offer a variety of recreational opportunities.

Wilson Lake covers 9,000 acres and holds various state fishing records. Weekend anglers and fishing tournament participants can seek white bass, walleye, striped, small mouth and large mouth bass.

Contact:  lucascoc@wtciweb.com

GET TO KNOW LAKE WILSON and the geology of the area by hiking!
Excerpts from Catherine Hauber & John Young's book, Hiking Guide to Kansas:

ROCKTOWN TRAIL (Wilson Reservoir trail) This 3-mile loop travels primarily through native prairie.  The views of the Smoky Hills are spectacular.  A deep canyon slices through a hill close to the lake and massive red sandstone formations rise out of the water.

DAKOTA TRAIL:  This nature trail can be hiked as a 1 mile or .5 mile loop.  There are 12 interpretive stations.  The vistas of the lake and surrounding hills, where wildflowers grow in abundance, should tempt even serious hikers who might bypass this short trail. 

Source:  Kansas Geological Survey website

The region known as the Smoky Hills occupies the north-central part of the state. It is delineated by outcrops of Cretaceous-age rocks and takes its name from the early morning haze that often gathers in the valleys.

During the Cretaceous Period (that interval of geologic time from about 144 to 66 million years ago), Kansas was once again under water. Unlike the relatively shallow seas of the Pennsylvanian and Permian, the seas that advanced and retreated during the Cretaceous were deeper and more widespread. Three principal rock outcrops characterize the Smoky Hills--the sandstones of the Dakota Formation, the limestone of the Greenhorn Limestone, and the thick chalks of the Niobrara Chalk.

Many of the outcrops and roadcuts  along K-232 are Dakota Formation sandstone but some Greenhorn Limestone (just north of I-70), as well.

The Dakota Formation sandstones crop out in a wide belt from Rice and McPherson counties, in the south, to Washington County, in the north. They are the remains of beach sands and sediments dumped by rivers draining into the early Cretaceous seas. The hills and buttes in this part of the Smoky Hills, such as Coronado Heights in Saline County, are capped by this sandstone and rise sharply above the surrounding plains. 

The next outcrop belt to the west is the Greenhorn Limestone, which is made up of thin (usually less than 6 inches) chalky limestones beds alternating with thicker beds of grayish shale. The Greenhorn Limestone was deposited in a relatively shallow part of the Cretaceous sea. Near the top of the Greenhorn is a limestone bed called Fencepost limestone. Because timber was scarce in this part of the state, limestone was used extensively by early settlers for buildings and fenceposts.

The third and westernmost range of hills in the Smoky Hills developed on the thick chalks of the Niobrara Chalk.

Photo courtesy Hargrove International