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Kansas Physiographic Provinces

The Kansas landscape was formed by alternating periods of deposition and erosion. This landscape divides regions of Kansas according to physical geology, or physiography. Each region is different, and that difference is determined largely by geology, along with other factors such as climate.

Generalized Physiographic Map of Kansas

High Plains - This region comprises northwest and southwest Kansas. Excellent
farmland slopes gently downward from the west. Numerous irrigated fields compensate for the area's limited rainfall.

Arkansas River Lowlands - The river that produced the Royal Gorge 240 miles to the west cuts the High Plains of southwest Kansas, leaving sand and gravel deposits, irregular hills, and sand dunes over a wide area.

Red Hills - Located along the state's south central boundary, this province has sandstone and shale stained red. Also included are areas of rugged hills, buttes, and mesas.

Smoky Hills - There are three hill ranges. Dakota sandstone makes up the first hill range. Noted outcrops are Coronado Heights, located north of Lindsborg; Pawnee Rock, a Sante Fe Trail landmark; and Rock City, an area filled with 200 large sandstone concretions near Minneapolis. Greenhorn limestone makes up the middle hill range, an area known as Post Rock Country. Early settlers cut their fence posts from this rock because timber was scarce. The third range, chalk bluffs in the Smoky Hill River valley, produced some astonishing rock formations in Logan and Gove counties. A large sea once covered the area. Fossils found in the rock made the area famous for paleontology studies.

Wellington and McPherson Lowlands - Permeable sand and gravel and a large quantity of high-quality water in the Equus beds underlie some of this area. Salt mines and marshes are nearby.

Flint Hills - Stretching north and south across the state, this is an area of beautiful scenery and unexcelled pasture land. Elevation differences vary from 100 to 400 feet. The area is named for the chert or flint rock that covers the bluestem slopes. An underlying fault has been known to produce a few minor earthquakes.

Glaciated Region - This area is bounded by the Kansas and Blue rivers. There are rounded hills and broad valleys with glacial deposits of quartzite on some of the hills.

Osage Questas - This is a hill-plain or broad-terrace panorama with the eastern slopes of the hills steeper than the western slopes. There is a plentiful limestone supply.

Chautauqua Hills - Extending north from the state's southern border, this province is only a few miles wide. The underlying rock is thick sandstone.

Cherokee Lowlands - Bituminous coal veins are near the surface in this region where thousands of acres have been strip-mined. Until recently this stripped ground was considered ruined, but now efforts are being made to restore the land to productive use.

Ozark Plateau - The Ozark region begins in the extreme southeast corner of Kansas. Crinoids, trilobites, and other fossils may be found in this area.

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Kansas Physiographic Provinces (PDF; 192 KB)

Information from Kansas Geological Survey.