Kansas is famously flat, but fun fact, it's not the flattest state in the USA - that's Florida. Many folks just drive across Kansas as they head from coast to coast, but Kansas actually has a number of things to see - so take time to include Kansas in one's road trip. One of its attractions is Mushrooms Rock State Park.
Mushroom Rock State Park is located in the Smoky Hills of north-central Kansas and is famous for its interesting mushroom rock formations. Rewind the clock back to the times of the dinosaurs during the Cretaceous Period, and the Great Plans were a massive shallow inland sea called the Western Interior Seaway.
Mushroom Formation In The Prehistoric Western Interior Seaway
The mushroom rocks are the remains of beach sands and sediments of that sea from around 144 to 66 million years ago. The sandstone and sedimentary rock are bound by natural cement called calcium carbonate. The sandstone is part of the Dakota Formation.
- Formed: During The Cretaceous Period Around 100 Million Years Ago
The mushroom rocks have formed over eons of time. The harder core that remains today was formed as circulating water deposited the limy cement between the sand grains in certain parts of the formation. This created concretions or harder bodies of rock. Over time these hardened rocks were exposed as the softer sandstone eroded away.
While most of the concretions around the world are spherical (like the iconic Moeraki Boulders in New Zealand's South Island), the ones at Mushroom Rock State Park are more irregular and elliptical.
There are other concretions to be found in the region - like in Rock City in Ottawa County (although these are more circular-shaped and less mushroom-shaped). Rock City has more of these rock formations, and they are more exposed.
The Mushrooms Of Kansas' Smallest State Park
"One of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Geography, Mushroom Rock is the smallest, but one of the most unique, state parks in Kansas. The park is only 5 acres but boasts some of the most unusual rock formations anywhere."
The park has numerous rock formations in the 5-acre park, with the largest one measuring some 27 feet in diameter. There are two mushroom-shaped rock formations and a giant shoe rock in the park.
- Largest Rock: 27 Feet In Diameter
Mushroom rock is actually the smallest state park in Kansas and is considered one of the most eye-catching natural features in the state.
For thousands of years, the odd formations have captured the imagination of pioneers (like John C. Fremont and Kit Carson) and the Native Americans long before them. Graffiti from past visitors can be found etched into the soft limestone and sandstone.
The process of eroding and exposing the mushroom rocks or concretions is ongoing. There may well be many more concretions in this park that have not yet been fully exposed and are still buried under the soil. Come back in a few million years, and there may be more mushrooms spouting from the land.
Getting To Mushroom Rock State Park & Neighboring Kanopolis
The Mushroom Rock State Park is accessed by dirt roads - these can be a little rough after rain. The state park is located on the Prairie Trail Scenic Byway.
The facilities of the park are basic. There are picnic tables and a basic toilet. Mushroom Rock State Park is managed by the nearby larger Kanopolis State Park.
- Location: 20 Miles Southwest Of Salina, Kansas
- Kansas Parks Entry Fees: $6 Per Vehicle Online, $5 Per Vehicle At Park Office
It won't take long to see the mushrooms. The nearby Kanopolis State Park is the first state park in Kansas and occupies rolling hills, bluffs, and woods of the scenic Smoky Hills. It has towering Dakota sandstone bluffs, caves, and the Horsethief Canyon.
Kanopolis also has 30 miles of hiking trails (also open to mountain bikers and horseback riders).
While in the area, take the time to visit the city of Kanopolis. There, visitors can see are four remaining buildings of Fort Harker. The fort was an American outpost that was active just after the Civil War from November 1866 to October 1872.