The largest Niobrara Chalk formation in Kansas hides like a giant treasure in a valley between Scott City and Oakley. This mile-long stretch of 100-foot-tall spires and cliffs at The Nature Conservancy's Smoky Valley Ranch opens to the public October 12th, with trails that beg for you to use the panorama setting on your camera. You can learn more about the grand opening event by visiting our Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park Grand Opening event page. Meanwhile, explore two grass and dirt trails on the west side of the historically rich property (it's seen the likes of Wild Bill Hickok, "Buffalo Bill" Cody, and more than 100 families of African-American settlers.) A 5-mile loop trail passes a buffalo jump used by Native Americans (bison were reintroduced to the area in 2000).
Ancient Niobrara Chalk formations left from when an inland sea covered Kansas territory take you back in time with breathtaking views. The soft limestone pyramids are also home to wildlife - from bats and ferruginous hawks to snakes, toads and lizards – and plants found nowhere else in the world. The Nature Conservancy partnered with Kansas Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism to design access that protects the fragile rocks and unique ecology at this a one-of-a-kind attraction.
The 332-acre area encompasses 220 acres of dramatic chalk rock formations and is owned by The Nature Conservancy, a global non-profit conservation organization. Beyond the impressive scenic views, the area serves as nesting habitat for ferruginous hawks and is home to rare plants. Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park was established by the Kansas Legislature in 2018 after The Nature Conservancy partnered with KDWPT to have the area designated as a state park. Together, the organizations developed two trails, parking and additional infrastructure at the park. A long-term agreement allows KDWPT to manage outdoor recreational activities in a manner that protects the fragile rocks while The Nature Conservancy continues to own the land and manage the natural resources.
“The Nature Conservancy’s chief purposes for Little Jerusalem are, first, to protect the pristine natural features and, second, to provide opportunities for people to enjoy the natural beauty of the area,” said Conservancy director Rob Manes. “Striking that balance took time and we are confident that the partnership between The Nature Conservancy and KDWPT provides the public with the best possible experience. We can’t wait to share Little Jerusalem with everyone next month.”
“From the start, we’ve envisioned this property as a special kind of state park, where natural resource conservation is the highest priority,” agrees Linda Lanterman, KDWPT state parks director. “That means that public interaction with the landscape will necessarily be limited to only activities that have the least impact. We’ve struck a great balance with the trails that allow visitors to experience a diversity of views.”
After the grand opening, Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park will be open to visitors from sunrise to sunset daily, all year round. Visitors will be required to purchase a daily vehicle permit, currently $5, at the park or have an annual Kansas state parks vehicle pass. Guided tours provided by KDWPT staff will be available by appointment.