The Smoky Hill River is the dominant geological feature near Schoenchen, and the river valley provides beautiful views and offers scenic drives along the country roads to the west or east of town. The Smoky Hill River originates in the High Plains of eastern Colorado and flows east through western Kansas. It winds around to the west and north of Schoenchen and as it continues through central Kansas it joins the Republican River at Junction City to form the Kansas River. The river gets its name from the Smoky Hills region of north-central Kansas which is divided into three regions based on the underlying rock outcroppings: The Dakota sandstone, Greenhorn limestone and Niobrara chalk. The limestone and blue shale formations are what you will see on the bluffs, hills and road cutouts near Schoenchen. The chalky limestone formations and slabs provided excellent building materials for the early immigrants. They would cut out the slabs from the side of the hills to form large stone blocks, smaller brick like chunks and very large 8’ long stone posts that you see bordering the fields and pastures.
The limestone, chalk and shale you see in this area were formed during the geological era known as the Cretaceous period. This is when Kansas was underwater and at the bottom of the Cretaceous Interior Sea. Millions of years of deposits from sediment, mud and sand formed layers on upon layers that eventually turned into sandstone, chalk and shale. Through a process of compaction and pressure, these rock and shale formations were created. Now they are exposed to the elements and through erosion and the forces of Mother Nature; what was once at the bottom of the sea, is now exposed - and the shells and fossilized remains of many of the prehistoric creatures that lived 70 to 100 million years ago are visible.
Although the hills and bluffs that are on private property are not open to public access, many interesting rocks and shells can be seen along the ditches where there are rock outcroppings on either side of the county roads. Taking the Smoky Hill River Road or Schoenchen Ave to the west of town several miles provides the opportunity to see the river valley, farmland and country side. East of Schoenchen approximately 2 ½ miles is where the Big Timber Creek flows into the Smoky Hill River and the County Line Road provides better access to see this area between 270th and 280th Ave. More information about the Cretaceous period and the fossils found in this area can be learned about at the Sternberg Musuem of Natural History located in Hays, Kansas. For more informaton visit there website - http://sternberg.fhsu.edu/