Map of Kansas's Parks and Protected Areas
This interactive map shows the Locations, Names, Areas, and Details of National Parks, State Parks, National Forests, Tribal, and other Public Lands of Kansas. It also shows major cities and rivers for context. For more detail, zoom in. For more information, hover over the map, or scroll down.
|Lake or River||◯||City|
|National Park Service||State||U.S. Forest Service|
|Fish and Wildlife Service||Tribal Lands||Bureau of Land Management|
|Department of Defense||U.S. Army Corps of Engineers||Other|
Geography of Kansas
The state of Kansas is known for the beautiful vast plains, but that's not all the state's geography has to offer. Gentle hills with forests and pastures are found in the northeast portion of the state; this area is known as the Dissected Till Plains.
The land in this region was dissected or cut into valleys and hills by the moving glaciers and wind more than 400-thousand years ago.
In the south, you'll find the Southeastern Plains, including the Osage Plains. The Osage Plains are composed of eroded limestone and shale.
Flint Hills contain flint ridges sticking up because flint doesn't break down or erode like other soils and rocks.
The western half of Kansas is covered by the Great Plains that rise in elevation as you travel west toward the Rocky Mountains range.
Near the border with Colorado, you'll find Mount Sunflower, which is Kansas's highest point being 4,039 feet (1,239 meters) in elevation.
Kansas has several ancient rock formations throughout the state. Grove County has two different formations; Monument Rocks and Castle Rock Kansas Rock Formations.
Kansas has a temperate yet continental climate. There are only a few long periods of extreme heat or cold. The average yearly temperature is 55°F (13°C).
The growing season in Kansas ranges from mid-April to mid-September. Typical annual precipitation ranges from less than 20 inches (500 mm) in the western regions to over 40 inches (1,000 mm) in the southeast. The statewide average rainfall is slightly more than 25 inches (635 mm).
The best time to visit Kansas is most likely to be during the fall. Many people include the summer months as one of the best times to visit since it's warm and dry.
Vegetation and Wildlife in Kansas
Kansas is full of incredible wildlife, including reptiles like the prairie king snakes, western worm snakes, and the Great Plains skinks.
Black-tailed jackrabbits, plains pocket gophers, least shrews, and nine-banded armadillos are a few of the common animals in the state.
Prairie chickens, black vultures, yellow-billed cuckoos, western meadowlarks, and golden eagles keep birdwatchers enthralled.
Cedar, oak, maple, and walnut trees grow in abundance in the northeastern part of Kansas. The state tree, cottonwood, crops up throughout the state.
Kansas is covered in many grass varieties, including the west buffalo grass. In the Southeastern Plains, you'll find bluestem grass, switchgrass, and Indian grass; in the Great Plains, bluegrass grows beautifully.
Some wildflowers commonly found throughout Kansas include verbena, sunflowers, purple coneflower, prickly poppy, and prairie phlox.
Best Parks in Kansas
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is the red area northeast of Wichita.
Once upon a time, the tallgrass prairie covered over 100 million acres of North America's land. However, within a generation, most of it has been turned into farmland. Today, less than 4% of tallgrass prairie remains intact, mainly in the Kansas Flint Hills, Kansas Prairies.
It was in November of 1996 that the preserve was established to protect the nationally significant remnant of the vast tallgrass prairie ecosystem that once was.
The preserve offers 11,000 acres of beautiful nature for visitors to enjoy the stunning vistas, wildlife, wildflower, and bison.
A historic ranch and a one-room school with limestone buildings can be found on the land. Every season the ranch offers something new for visitors to experience, NPS.
The Tallgrass Preserve provides many opportunities for making meaningful connections to the prairie and the people that once lived there. There are no reservations required, and the prairie is open all year, 24/7 except during times of controlled burns or prescribed fire.
All-access to the Tallgrass Preserve is by walking or hiking. The hiking trails are mowed paths and old gravel ranch roads; it's somewhat rustic and natural. Bikes, ATVs, and private vehicles are not permitted in the prairie.
There are three natural trails that are short in length and allow park visitors to experience the prairie while staying closer to visitor services.
All three trails are dog-friendly, but dogs must be on a visible 6' maximum leash. All trails are open 24 hours a day, and camping isn't permitted.
Visitors can stop by the visitor center to explore various exhibits and speak to park rangers.
Ecology, geology, culture, and history have all shaped the Tallgrass Prairie.
Wilson Reservoir State Park
Wilson Reservoir State Park is located in central Kansas and is represented as the lime green polygon east of Hays.
Located in the scenic Smoky Hills region of Kansas, Wilson State Park provides easy access to one of the state's prime water recreation sites.
The park consists of two areas that total 945 acres. Otoe and Hell Creek are situated on the south side of the 9-thousand acre reservoir. Primitive and utility camping sites are available.
Visitors can enjoy the day-use areas, a swimming beach, boat access, a marina, and hiking trails. Shower buildings and water hookups are available from April through September.
The Dakota Trail provides one of the best views of the Wilson Reservoir and Kansas prairie.
Bicyclists can enjoy a scenic 10-mile route on the Switchgrass Bike Trail. The Cedar Trail in the Otoe area of the park is accessible to people with disabilities, offering a one-mile loop consisting of an asphalt surface.
Wilson State Park provides visitors with ample opportunity for wildlife viewing and photography.
The Wilson Wildlife Area offers various hunting opportunities with the proper permits. Thousands of anglers visit the park every year for the striped bass and walleye fishing, Wilson Reservoir.
El Dorado State Park
El Dorado State Park is the lime green polygon east of Wichita.
El Dorado is considered one of the top state parks in the U.S.
Visitors enjoy boating, fishing, and family fun. The park is conveniently located at the edge of Flint Hills, close to three state highways and the Kansas Turnpike.
El Dorado offers about two thousand acres of park area and four thousand acres of wildlife area surrounding eight thousand acres of water and 98 miles of shoreline, El Dorado.
There are different trails available in the State Park, including hiking trails, horse trails with hitching posts on the shoreline and at campsites, and biking trails. The campsites offer corrals and other equestrian amenities.
Angler fishers love the steep, rocky shorelines, old river channels, as well as submerged railroad beds and dead-standing timber.
Wildlife enthusiasts love the wide range of small mammals, as well as the songbirds, game birds, white-tailed deer, and waterfowl.
Keep an eye on the event calendar to see what will be taking place in the coming months, Kansas Outdoors.
Mushroom Rock State Park
To see Mushroom Rock State Park, you have to zoom on the map. It is the lime green speck west of Salina and 5 miles north of Kanopolis State Park.
Mushroom Rock is located on the Prairie Trail Scenic Byway.
This state park is one of the 8 wonders of Kansas geography. While Mushroom Rock State Park is one of the smallest parks in the state, it's one of the most unique.
The park only consists of five acres, but it's the only place you'll find these unusual rock formations. These rocks served as landmarks and meeting places for the Indigenous people and early pioneers.
If you haven't guessed yet, the Mushroom Rock resembles a massive mushroom rising above the horizon.
The Dakota formations of Mushroom Rock State Park are the remains of beach sand and sediments of the Cretaceous Period. Sandstone and sedimentary rock are held together by nature's cement (cemented calcium carbonate).
The largest rock is 27 feet (8.22 meters) in diameter.
Visitors can enjoy hiking around the park to admire the unique natural wonders. A rock naturally shaped like a mushroom isn't something you see every day. With only 5 acres to explore, the park is an excellent place for an afternoon of exploration, Mushroom Park.
Elk City State Park
Elk City State Park is situated in southeast Kansas, north of Coffeyville.
The dense oak-hickory woodland meets the rolling meadows of Indian and big bluestem grass in the 857-acre park.
Elk City Reservoir is a stunning 4,500 acres, and the 12,000 acre Elk City Wildlife Area is adjacent to the park. Both offer outdoor enthusiasts room to enjoy their favorite outdoor activities.
The nationally recognized trail system allows visitors to get a closer look at the variety of fauna and flora in and surrounding the Elk City State Park.
Green Thumb Nature Trail is a one-mile loop starting in the state park campground, offering hikers the panoramic vista of the beautiful lake that's framed by oak and ash trees.
Post Oak Nature Trail and Table Mound Hiking Trails are also beautiful attractions at the park.
Another fantastic trail to explore is the Elk River Hiking Trail, which is a 15-mile trail beginning at the west edge of the dam and ends close to the U.S. Highway 160 bridge, Elk City.
Elk City campgrounds offer a variety of well-shaded sites perfect for recreational vehicles or primitive campers. The campgrounds provide showers, a beach, a group shelter, a three-lane boat ramp, and fishing piers.
The Elk City Wildlife Area offers a vast array of wild creatures like white-tailed deer, bobwhite quail, wild turkey, cottontail, fox, and gray squirrels.
Beavers, bobcats, coyotes, opossum, muskrat, minks, and raccoons also call the area home. Don't forget your binoculars so you can get an up-close and personal view of wildlife.
The reservoir is an excellent place to fish for channel catfish, crappie, flathead catfish, largemouth bass, saugeye, and white bass. Visitors will find that there is a handicapped-accessible fishing dock as well.
With modern campsites containing electric and water hookups, you have plenty of options. Some sites include modern restrooms with showers, sewer hookups, trailer sewage dump stations, group shelters, fishing docks, fishing piers, and playground facilities for the little ones.
Kanopolis State Park
Located in the middle of the state and is represented in lime green.
Kanopolis has rolling hills, bluffs, prairies, canyons, woods, and a 3,500-acre reservoir.
Kanopolis State Park offers two primary campground areas; Langley Point Area and Horsethief Area.
Both campgrounds are open to a variety of opportunities for outdoor recreation. The facilities have a lot to offer, including nearly 450 campsites ranging from primitive to full-utility hookups.
Some of the other features consist of group picnic shelters, deluxe cabins, restroom facilities, swimming beaches, modern showers, boat ramps, and a full-service marina.
There is a 26-mile multi-use trail system for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing. A hardened trail is available at the wildlife viewing area and is wheelchair accessible.
The state park offers all sorts of activities, and it even has a ball field. Bicycling, birdwatching, wildlife viewing, boating, swimming, hiking, camping, fishing, and canoeing are only a few things to do around the area.
The amphitheater puts on shows and events, so keep an eye out. Book your spot at the park today, Kanopolis SP
Scott State Park
Scott State Park is located in the western central Kansas area and is depicted in lime green. The park is located along the Western Vistas Historic Byway, around 11 miles north of Scott City.
It's been said that Scott City State Park is listed by National Geographic as one of America's 50 must-see state parks, and for a good reason.
Scott State Park is an incredible oasis of natural springs, lush wooded canyons, and craggy bluffs. It is also an important piece of early American history. The park is hidden in a canyon in the western Kansas prairie.
The park offers 1,020 acres of land surrounding the 100 acres, spring-fed Scott State Fishing Lake, as well as 160-acre wildlife area west of the park.
Scott State Park is one of the most historic locations in the state of Kansas. Over 26 archeological sites are documented in and adjacent to the park.
It's an ideal place for camping, swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, wildlife watching, and hunting (with proper permits).
The natural trails are perfect for hiking and horseback riding. There is also a horse camp with amenities for the equestrian visitors, source: Kansastravel.org.
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If you plan on visiting one of these parks or hiking along the prairies, I suggest you get some of these items found on Amazon.
- Merrell Waterproof Hiking Boot: Ideal for walking comfortably through Kansas trails.
- Sun Company Compass: Perfect for hiking, backpacking and survival navigation.
- Monocular Telescope: For bird watching, hunting, and enjoying wildlife scenery. It is waterproof and has a remote shutter with smartphone adapter.
Resources for Kansas's Protected Areas Map
The shapefiles with Kansas's state boundary lines, lakes, major rivers, and cities were downloaded from Natural Earth Data.
The Parks and Public Lands shapefiles for Kansas were downloaded from USGS.
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