Kansas Facts & Fascinating Tidbits

Kansas: Actually, not that flat

The wide-open views from I-70 and the background scenery in a well-known movie about a girl named Dorothy have created a mis-impression. People seem to believe Kansas is flat. But those who live here know that's just not true. If you venture off the beaten track of the highways, you'll find a Kansas that is full of surprises - in colors, textures, charming destinations and varied elevations. Yes, Kansas has prairies and plains, but it also boasts hills that ride like a roller coaster. (Just ask the riders of The Dirty Kanza 200 - the world's premier gravel grinder race through the Flint Hills.) In fact, there are six states that are flatter than Kansas. (Namely: Florida, Illinois, North Dakota, Louisiana, Minnesota and Delaware.)

Kansas basics by the numbers
82,282 square miles | 2.904 million citizens | 4, 039 ft. highest elevation at Mt. Sunflower in Wallace County | 679 ft. lowest elevation at Verdigris River in Montgomery County

Kansas tourism by the numbers
$570 million - Amount of state and local revenues generated by Kansas tourism
34.8 million  - Number of visitors to Kansas last year
92,000  - Number of people employed by Kansas tourism (4.9% of employment in the state)

Kansas outdoor fun by the numbers
168 ft. 7 in.: height of the world-record Verrückt water slide at Kansas City's Schlitterbahn Waterpark 200 miles: length of the Dirty Kanza, the world's premier gravel grinder race 
26 state parks | 300 miles of trails | 24 reservoirs | 4 national wildlife refuges 
100 wildlife areas, including Cheyenne Bottoms, the largest inland marsh in North America
570+ state and community lakes | Hundreds of thousands of acres of public hunting land

Seasonal Kansas: It's hot! It's cold. It's wet. It's humid. It's dry. (Yes, all of these.)
4 Number of seasons that Kansas experiences
55 degrees Average annual temperature
28.7 inches Average statewide rainfall (which decreases as you travel west)
40 inches Average rainfall in southeast Kansas
15 inches Average rainfall at Kansas' western border

What time is it? It depends.
2 Number of Kansas time zones (Mountain and Central)
4 Number of mountain-time counties (Sherman, Wallace, Greeley, Hamilton)
30 Number of minutes earlier the sun sets on Kansas' eastern border than on the western border

Agriculture & livestock by the numbers | Top crops: wheat, sorghum (milo), soybeans, hay, corn
#1 Kansas ranking in U.S. wheat production (10 million acres harvested annually),
with Reno, Sumner and Harper counties leading the way
#2 Kansas ranking in commercial cattle production (7.356 million heads of cattle)
90%+ amount of Kansas land devoted to agriculture (47 million acres)
6,000 Head of bison raised on Kansas ranches and refuges

Active military bases
Fort Riley (Army) | Fort Leavenworth (Army) | McConnell Air Force Base | Air National Guard

Kansas Historical Sites

  • Constitution Hall, Lecompton | A National Historic Landmark where a large antislavery delegation marched in 1857 to protest the proslavery constitutional convention meeting. 
  • Cottonwood Ranch, Studley | A once-prosperous rural sheep ranch that is relatively unchanged from its 19th-century beginnings, includes unique stone structures and a large photography collection. 
  • First Territorial Capitol, Fort Riley | Location of the four day-meeting in 1855 between Governor Andrew Reeder and the territorial legislature, whose actions there would help lead to the Civil War
  • Fort Hays, Hays | A historic fort established in 1865 in the land of the Cheyenne and Arapaho that hosted General George A. Custer, Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickock and the Buffalo Soldiers.
  • Goodnow House, Manhattan | The unique stone farmhouse home of the freestaters who founded Manhattan, the Kansas State Teachers Association and what would become Kansas State University
  • Grinter Place, Kansas City | A frontier trading post and ferry site that offers glimpses into history through the beautiful homestead of Annie and Moses Grinter.
  • Hollenberg Pony Express Station, Hanover | Historic stop of pony express riders and hundreds of pioneers along the Oregon-California Trail that provides a glimpse into pioneer life on the prairie
  • Iowa and Sac & Fox Mission, Highland | Site built as a Presbyterian mission to educate the children of the Iowa and Sac & Fox tribes from 1845 to 1863
  • John Brown Museum, Osawatomie | The Adair cabin and station on the Underground Railroad that John Brown used as his headquarters during the "Bleeding Kansas" years
  • Kaw Mission, Council Grove | The home and school of 30 Kaw boys from 1851 to 1854, along the Santa Fe Trail not long before the government removed them to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma)
  • Marais Des Cygnes Massacre Site, near Trading Post | Site of a massacre of five free-state men in a ravine that followed earlier guerilla warfare activities, a pivotal event in the "Bleeding Kansas" era
  • Mine Creek Civil War Battlefield, Pleasanton | Battle site where approximately 2,500 Union troops defeated approximately 7,000 Confederates in one of the Civil War's largest cavalry battles.
  • Pawnee Indian Museum, Republic | One of the only museums on the Central Plains that tells the story of an indigenous tribe, including archeology findings that uncovered half of a late 1700s village
  • Pawnee Rock, Pawnee Rock | A sandstone citadel marking the Santa Fe Trail's halfway point, which American Indians were said to have used as a vantage point to spot bison herds and wagon trails
  • Red Rocks, William Allen White's House, Emporia | Home of the Pulitzer-prize winning editor of The Emporia Gazette who is considered by many to be greatest journalist in American history
  • Shawnee Indian Mission, Fairway | A manual training school for boys and girls from Shawnee, Delaware and other Indian nations from 1839 to 1862. A 12-acre National Historic Landmark.

Kansas Statehouse Capitol, Topeka
The Kansas State Capitol, the state's greatest architectural treasure, was designed to be a grand classical structure on the frontier symbolizing the founders' pride in Kansas' tumultuous path to statehood and their grand hopes for the future. It was under construction for more than 37 years from 1866 to 1903 and restored in 2014. Today, it's a must-see for architecture and history lovers. Tours by the Kansas Historical Society highlight vibrant murals by David H. Overmyer, John Steuart Curry, Lumen Martin Winter and Abner Crossman, ornate stenciling in the rotunda, statues by Peter Felten, Jr., and the significant chambers of the Kansas state government. When permitted, ambitious visitors climb the 296 stairs of the copper dome for unique and breathtaking views of the capitol city, right under the majestic Ad Astra State.

The Museum at Prairiefire, Overland Park
Opened in 2014, this 41,000-square-foot museum is more than a stunning, international award-winning architectural wonder. It's also a family-friendly destination as the first and only remote branch of New York's American Museum of Natural History. It anchors Overland Park's newest destination development with an iridescent glass-and-steel façade that glows in a range of vibrant colors that change depending on the light and angle of view, evoking the smoldering firelines of the Kansas tallgrass prairie. 

Scenic byways: Twelve road trips with twelve unique personalities

  • Flint Hills National Scenic Byway: View several million undulating acres of the largest segment of America's remaining true tallgrass prairie and visit the iconic French Renaissance/Second Empire style Chase County Courthouse ¬- one of the most distinctive buildings in Kansas
  • Frontier Military Historic Byway: Revisit the dramatic pre-civil war history of the Bleeding Kansas years, including battlefields, museums and reenactments, and visit the famous Louisburg Cider Mill
  • Glacial Hills Scenic Byway: Trace the steps of Lewis and Clark and Amelia Earhart and visit the 4-state lookout, where you can view Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa simultaneously
  • Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway: See Kansas' southern rusted red hills that resemble the Arizona desert, a panorama of buttes and mesas and the Stan Herd crop murals in Wilmore and Coldwater
  • Land & Sky Scenic Byway: Scale the highest point in Kansas at Mount Sunflower and explore the deep canyons and rugged landscape of the Arikaree Breaks.
  • Native Stone Scenic Byway: Follow fences built from locally-mined stone, past stone barns and homesteads to the breathtaking Echo Cliff Park 
  • Post Rock Scenic Byway: Enjoy Grassroots art, Czech art and food, the quirky & artsy Bowl Plaza (voted America's #2 public restroom) and Switchgrass Mountain Bike Trail and kayaking around rock formations at Wilson State Park
  • Prairie Trail Scenic Byway: Hike Mushroom Rock State Park, visit the many galleries of the Lindsborg arts scene, and drive up to Coronado Heights, believed to near where Francisco Vasquez de Coronado gave up his search for the lost cities of gold
  • Kansas Historic Route 66 Byway: Experience the romance of Americana's open road, home of Tow Tater (inspiration for the Cars movie Tow Mater), encountering international travelers along the way
  • Smoky Valley Scenic Byway: Traverse rugged, rolling limestone hills in central Kansas, and visit Nicodemus, the only remaining town west of the Mississippi established by African-Americans who fled the South looking for a new life after the Civil War
  • Western Vistas Historic Byway: Home of famous fossils and the Monument and Castle Rocks - all remnants of an ancient Cretaceous sea that once covered Kansas
  • Wetland & Wildlife National Scenic Byway: Nirvana for birdwatchers and nature photographers, best known for connecting Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge

Great geology & fossil finds
Kansas was once the floor of a huge inland Cretaceous sea that left vast deposits of limestone. As a result, the chalk formations of Monument Rock and Castle Rocks tower over the surrounding plains in Gove County. Nearby, historically significant fossils were unearthed, and many are displayed at Hays' Sternberg Museum of Natural History - the most significant being the "fish-within-a-fish" fossil. Ottawa County's Rock City also features the world's largest collection of giant concretions, with more than 200 giant sandstone concretions (large round rocks) on view - some as large as a house.

National parks
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site | Fort Larned National Historic Site | Fort Scott National Historic Site | Nicodemus National Historic Site | Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Other national landmarks
California National Historic Trail | Cimarron National Grassland | Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area | Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail | Monument Rocks National Landmark | Oregon National Historic Trail | Pony Express National Historic Trail | Rock City National Natural Landmark | Santa Fe National Historic Trail | Route 66