The Chautauqua Hills in Kansas

(Frank) Oh my. Bill Hickok, umpiring the game. We’ve talked about hills a lot on the show and a lot of people that have never been to Kansas or through Kansas, have the image of course that it’s just flat and it’s straight through and all of that. I’ve said it many times; the typography of Kansas is really varied. If you ever do have the chance to start in the Northeast corner and go across the state and down the state and back around, you won’t believe that it’s all the same state. Yes, there are some high plains, it’s flat – (Deb) – in places and then it drops off and becomes very different. Over the past few weeks, we have crisscrossed the state; I can’t count how many times for different events and picking up kids and grandkids. My granddaughter who lives in Israel, we were traveling along Highway 16 up through Blaine and Westmoreland and you cross north of Manhattan, Tuttle Creek and everything up there; it’s just like this, Greg Fox wrote this song ‘Counting Hills’ because when he was a kid, they’d drive up there to visit family. His mom said, “Count the hills.” And people laugh but it’s like this. It is just like a ribbon there and my granddaughter’s like, “Where’s the flat Kansas?” It’s like, wow. (Frank) Well, we’re going to talk about a place that’s called the Chautauqua Hills and the thing is it’s up in northeast Kansas and you’re going to think you’re in the Ozarks if you go there. It is amazing. Totally amazing. (Deb) Very pretty. Stay with us. (Frank) The Kansas Geological Survey characterizes the Chautauqua Hills as a sandstone-capped rolling upland that extends into the Osage Cuestas from the southern Kansas border. About 10 miles wide, these hills extend as far north as Yates Center in Woodson County. Small patches of similar terrain can be found as far north as Leavenworth County. The Chautauqua Hills formed primarily in the thick sandstones of the Douglas Group. During the Pennsylvanian Period, about 286 million to 320 million years ago, rivers and streams flowed into the sea in this area. Sand and other sediments collected in the estuaries and at the mouths of the rivers in deltas. Over time, the sediments were buried and compacted, the sands became sandstone and the muds became shale. Over millions of years, uplift and erosion exposed the sandstone and shale at the earth’s surface. Further erosion has dissected the area into a series of low hills, capped by more resistant sandstone. Because of rock outcrops in this region, the hills are generally not cultivated but are used instead for pasture. The Verdigris, Fall, and Elk rivers cross the area in narrow valleys walled by sandstone bluffs. The Kansas Geological Survey says that the change in altitude in the region is never more than 250 feet. Even so, many visitors liken the area to the Ozarks, unlike many Kansas landscapes. Many of the hills are covered by stands of black jack oaks, scrub oaks, and other hardwood species. This mix of medium-tall grasslands and scattered stands of deciduous trees is called the Cross Timbers by scientists who map vegetation. In Kansas, the extent of the Cross Timbers follows almost exactly the outline of the Chautauqua Hills.

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