I had not heard of Monument Rocks before staying at a hotel in Kansas during a recent road trip. Our hotel room displayed photos of some beautiful rock formations and on doing a little research, we realized they were not far off our route and definitely worth trying to see.
For big city folks, driving to Monument Rocks might seem like driving to the middle of nowhere, but persist in your journey as the trip is worthwhile. The road to Monument Rocks is mostly well paved, although the final 6 miles is a gravel road that during heavy rains might get flooded and be difficult to navigate without all-wheel or four wheel drive. When we visited the weather and road were perfect.
The landscape has gently rolling hills, with lots of cattle grazing. Here and there, you get a hint of erosive changes due to wind and water, but there is nothing to suggest the unusual and beautiful rock formations you’re about to see until you’re almost on top of them.
This is the “Badlands” of Kansas, an area of chalk bluffs and chalk pinnacles. Around 80 million years ago the area was covered by the Western Interior Seaway and today the rocks of the region are rich in aquatic fossils such as shells, shark teeth, giant turtles and reptiles.
The best-known rock formation is the area is Monument Rocks, sometimes also called the Chalk Pyramids, some of which are over 70 feet tall. The rock is white and obviously layered in a sedimentary manner. The most striking formation are the spires, but there are windows in the rocks and some larger formations that one could consider to be “pyramids”.
Park on the road or in the parking area and wander about at your leisure. The region is frequented by free-range cattle, so watch your step. Rather than explain them, I think these photos to a better job of showing the features than my narrative ever could.
The site was recognized by the National Park Service as a National Natural Landmark in 1968. The site is an “8 Wonder of Kansas” because of the rocks unusual shape and rich fossil deposits.
The area offers some wildlife viewing opportunities. There are many birds nesting in the region, including hawks, falcons and the American kestrel. You might also see pronghorn antelopes, coyotes, jackrabbits and rattlesnakes.
If you visit:
Monument Rocks are located about 28 miles south of I-70, via US 83 south from Oakley. Just follow the signs. You’ll need to drive there, either in a car or motorcycle, or by bike. There is no public transportation. Monument Rocks are on privately owned range land, but the owner allows all to visit. The area is open to the public during daylight hours. There is no admission fee.
This rocks are comparatively soft and there are rules in effect to prevent excessive erosion. Climbing, digging, or carving of the rocks is forbidden, as are camping and bonfires. There are no facilities, so plan accordingly; remove your trash.
And enjoy the views!
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance slideshow)