Sunday, October 6, 2013

Big Kansas rocks

We spent Thursday night, Oct 3, at Scott State Park, north of Scott City KS. Now most of western Kansas is p-r-e-t-t-y flat. . .but large exposed limestone & chalk cliffs create gullies, even canyons in the area. This park is located in one of those canyons. The lake is spring fed & nicely full, with multiple campgrounds all around it, including a specific equine camp area. Now we not only had trees but lots of green grass too. . .with a view of a large body of clean, fresh water. The $2/night charge for electric & water is waived in the winter, which started Oct 1, so it cost $10 for the night. Unfortunately, Kansas (like far too many other states) adds an additional fee just to drive into the park. (Hello, just include it in the camping fee & make us feel good about waiving the day-use fee since we certainly can’t camp without entering the park.)

We visited Battle Canyon just south of the Park, where the last Indian encounter occurred in Kansas in 1878. A group of Cheyenne escaped from their reservation in Oklahoma & were pursued by the US Calvary. They successfully defended this spot in the canyon during the daytime attack (women & children hiding in a nearby cave), & fled to Nebraska during the night. One group was recaptured & returned to OK, but the other group spent the winter in the NE Sand Hills.

We also stopped in the Park to visit the remains of a 7-room pueblo, called El Cuartelejo by the Spanish in the 1640s, believed to be the most northern location of Indians from Taos NM. Then in 1696, Picuris Indians settled here until forced to return to NM in 1706 by the Spanish.

One of the reasons for taking this route thru Kansas was to visit big rock formations. I’m so glad I only take pictures of rocks instead of actually trying to collect & carry them around like some RVers I’ve read about. So Friday morning, we drove north of the Park on Highway 83, then turned right onto a decent gravel road, across the prairie to see Monument Rocks. Really bizarre to see these huge limestone & chalk formations sticking straight up out of the prairie. It was cloudy & threatening looking all morning as the edge of Winter Storm Atlas moved closer. As soon as we returned to the trailer, the wind really started howling but the clouds moved east & the sun came out. Thankfully the trailer just happened to be parked with the hitch facing into the winds so the rocking & rolling wasn’t too bad.

After a few hours of hoping the wind would die down (it didn’t), we reluctantly hitched up & headed east some more. . .for yet another big Kansas rock formation called Castle Rock Badlands, really out in the middle of nowhere. We turned north off Highway 4 at the tiny burg of Utica KS & drove north for 10 miles or so on dirt roads (pulling the trailer this time). We could actually see these cliffs far in the distance as we approached (since there wasn’t much of anything else around except occasional cows to obstruct the view).

As soon as we crossed the cattle guard to Castle Rock, the dirt road deteriorated quickly. Jeff loves off roading — me not so much. I’m especially nervous about rough, bumping roads when we’re pulling the trailer since I’m the one who has to put everything back in it’s place inside once we stop. Memories of smashing our new double-step trying to navigate the rock-filled dirt road at Monument Valley AZ danced in my head as we bumped along, climbing up near the top of the bluff. We got out & walked up to a high spot for a better view, but had to hang onto each other as the wind was dangerously strong up there. I even sat down to take photos since I couldn’t keep the camera steady from the wind gusts. Thankfully the road looped around to the entrance & wasn’t as treacherous as the first part. There is also a road (I use the term lightly) however leading down to the floor below the cliffs that had huge, deep cuts running diagonally across it. We not only didn’t drive down that road, but I’m not sure it was even safe to walk down. I saw lots of horse tracks (& piles of poop) in the area tho so that might be the best alternative to walking.

We continued our trek east. . .to Cedar Bluff State Park. Unfortunately, they had either let water out of the reservoir, or just hadn’t had any rain ‘cause it was really low (or dry) with lots of dead trees showing, few trees around the campgrounds, & just not appealing in any way (especially for the $22/night price they wanted). A quick search for RV parks on my phone (YES, I’ve had cell phone service even in the most desolate of areas on this trip) lead us to Ellis KS city park. Lots of huge trees along a little river that flows thru town with electric & water for $15/night was definitely appreciated.

We spent a few more hours Saturday morning traveling east thru Lyons & McPherson to FINALLY arrive at Chase County State Fishing Lake, just west of Cottonwood Falls KS. It’s on the west side of I-35 from Emporia on the east side. A kewl little town! We stayed at this lake once about 3 years ago & have always wanted to return, for a number of reasons, one being a strong cell signal. Like all Kansas State Fishing Lakes, it’s boondocking, but staying up to 14 days FREE parked next to a fishing lake with trees in the plains is hard to beat.

After five days of traveling, it’s time for some R&R. Supposedly the obnoxious wind will finally stop Monday. I think it’s blown off a few of my freckles in the past few days.

Yes Toto, we are DEFINITELY in Kansas again.


  1. I love Native American history...we will definitely put this on our places to visit whenever in this area. Great pics!

  2. We were at Scott State Park last year and had the same thoughts. One computer system for access, another for the campground fee, and even a third if I had wanted a fishing license. Took 20 minutes to get registered as the two systems had only one terminal, each. Even after all that, we enjoyed our weekend there before heading for the Kansas Gathering. Hoping the wind gives you a break.

  3. Wow, we have never seen this part of Kansas. Will have to check it out some time.

  4. That little town of Ellis must get a lot of traffic. The Kansas welcome center recommended it to us but we did not make it. Also that's where Emily lived...note past tense!

    Also loved all the red rocks in your previous post.....You inspired me....just bought another camera! Stay safe in this crazy weather.

  5. As I write this note, I am sitting in my little Eggie in the backyard of my now empty Ellis house. I am here to finish the finishing work this week before pulling Eggie to TorC, NM. Sorry I missed you guys. And, thanks for mentioning the Ellis campground. It is a pretty popular place and the City does a pretty good job of keeping it clean and patrolled.

  6. Sure wish you could zip over to Chase, but hopefully we'll see you at Quartzite in Feb. Glad you're nearly done with the big move. I know that's a huge hassle.

  7. Yet another great post. Thanks for sharing a different, interesting slice of KS. BTW state parks in MI also charge an entrance fee (daily) over and above camping. (sheesh)

    1. Thanks Bob. As far as I know, MO doesn't take on any additional camping fees. Guess that's why it annoys me a lot when other states 'nickle & dime' campers.

  8. Now I'm going to need to put Kansas on my list!

  9. Glenda...I am remiss...I had your Blog confused with another...I now have you on my blog list...have followed you Guys a couple + provide super insight, terrific photos...and a bunch of down to earth sense....of course I am envious at your full timing endeavor....thanks for your GREAT Blog.....and your strong and positive spirit!!!..Horst sends

  10. Glenda, thanks for sharing. You captured a couple of really nice places that I am looking forward to visiting. Great seeing you both at Chase State Lake.

  11. Beautiful pictures. And the information on the Kansas fishing lists. I also have not had you on my blog list for awhile due to a computer change; only your facebook page. I was missing your pictures and postings.


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