Natural Wonders of Western Kansas
Follow the past
“What we find out here either swam in the ocean or flew above it,” says Chuck Bonner, who has an educated eye that comes from a lifetime of fossil hunting. He and his wife, Barbara Shelton, have explored Western Kansas’ fossil beds for decades. They display their finds at Keystone Gallery and Museum (18 miles north of Scott City). Their guided fossil hunts—on nearby private land they have access to—give novices an opportunity to unearth prehistoric treasures dating back 80 million years.
Standing atop Point of Rocks in Cimarron National Grassland, hikers can sense—and see—the human history that passed this way. Washboard ridges furrow the prairie earth, a well-worn path left by thousands of covered wagons traveling the fabled Santa Fe Trail. Hikers can follow in their footsteps. Cimarron’s 108,000 acres in the southwest corner of Kansas protect 23 miles of the route designated as a national historic trail, one of the longest public segments between Missouri and New Mexico.
The Sandsage Bison Range and Wildlife Area (a half mile south of Garden City) offers the chance to see bison (commonly called buffalo) in a setting of native prairie reminiscent of what pioneers saw 150 years ago. A volunteer group, Friends of the Sandsage Bison Range, leads free guided tours of the 3,670-acre refuge. Visitors bump along the roads in a truck or open-air trailer, eager to spot the 100 or so bison that roam among feathery sage and blooming wildflowers.