Quivira National Wildlife Refuge by B. Jones / CC BY 2.0
If you are not very familiar with Kansas you will probably be very surprised at home many amazing locations it has to offer landscape and nature photographers. From grasslands, to hills, to rock formations, Kansas has plenty of interesting places. Here we’ll look at some of the best locations in the state. The interactive map below shows the location of each spot mentioned on this page.
This page will continue to be a work in progress, so please feel free to leave a comment with your own suggestions of great places to photograph.
Monument Rocks in western Kansas is a National Natural Landmark. These formations, also known as Chalk Pyramids, are up to 70-feet high and quite striking surrounded by a flat landscape. There are several different formations here, with plenty to explore and photograph. The photo below only shows a portion of the area. Monument Rocks is on private land, but open to the public for free. To reach Monument Rocks you can take a gravel road for 6 miles from U.S. Highway 83.
Monument Rocks by Lane Pearman / CC BY 2.0
Castle Rock is located about 30 miles east of Monument Rocks. Castle Rock is a pillar-like limestone formation with other badland areas nearby. Although the area is named for Castle Rock, the badlands are equally interesting and photo-worthy. Castle Rock is about 12 miles south of Interstate 70 (exit 107). There is a rough and bumpy road that leads back on range land to get to Castle Rock.
Castle Rock by Patrick Emerson / CC BY-ND 2.0
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is in eastern Kansas, between Wichita and Topeka, and in the Flint Hills region. This area is significant because it is one of the few tallgrass prairie areas still in existence, although there was once about 170 million acres of it in North America. This is one of the newer national preserves and it is still being developed and improved. There are several different hiking trails, including a scenic overlook trail. The preserve is also home to a bison herd that you may be able to photograph from some of the trails.
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve by Patrick Emerson / CC BY-ND 2.0
The Flint Hills region of east central Kansas. Although Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is located in the Flint Hills, the region also has much more to offer. Some of the best photo opportunities in the Flint Hills can be found simply by driving random roads and stopping when you see something of interest in these rolling hills. This area also features a lot of wildflowers that are great for photos.
Flint Hills by Patrick Emerson / CC BY-ND 2.0
Mushroom Rock State Park
Mushroom Rock State Park is in central Kansas, about 100 miles northwest of Wichita. The park is home to a few mushroom-shaped hoodoos, as well as many other rock formations. It is a rather small (5 acre) park, but well worth visiting for these unique rock formations. To reach the park you will need to take a dirt road a few miles off the main road.
Mushroom Rock State Park by Lane Pearman / CC BY 2.0
Kanopolis State Park
Kanopolis State Park is located just a few miles southwest of Mushroom Rocks State Park. It features sandstone canyons, a reservoir, desert plants, bluffs, and woods. There are about 30 miles of hiking trails to explore and find photo opportunities. The park is located along Prairie Trail Scenic Byway, so while you are taking in the beauty of Kansas from the road you can stop to see Kanopolis State Park.
Kanopolis State Park by Garett Gabriel / CC BY-ND 2.0
Pillsbury Crossing is in northeastern Kansas, about 50 miles west of Topeka. Pillsbury Crossing is a limestone slab that was used by pioneers to cross Deep Creek. At the end there is a waterfall that drops 5 feet and is about 40 feet wide. This picturesque waterfall is ideal for being photographed. This area is a part of Pillsbury Crossing Wildlife Area.
Pillsbury Crossing by Adam Sparks / CC BY 2.0
Rock City Park is about 80 miles west of Pillsbury Crossing. Here, in the midst of a prairie, are three clusters of large spherical boulders. Between the three clusters there are about 200 boulders in total. Most of the boulders range from 10 to 20 feet in diameter. The boulders serve as an interesting subject for your photos.
Rock City by Shannon Ramos / CC BY 2.0
Teterville was a town that was built near an oil field that was discovered in 1920. Today nothing remains of the town aside from the foundations of a few buildings, and Teter Rock. The current monument is a re-construction of what was originally created by James Teter. The rocks, located at a high point, were used to guide people to the Cottonwood River. Now it makes an excellent subject for a photograph.
Teter Rock by Lane Pearman / CC BY 2.0
Shawnee Mission Park
Shawnee Mission Park and Shawnee Mission Lake are in eastern Kansas, outside of Kansas City. The 120-acre lake is popular for boating and fishing, and it is also quite scenic. You can photograph from the shoreline, or take a boat onto the water to get a better view.
Shawnee Mission Park by kansasphoto / CC BY 2.0
Keeper of the Plains
Keeper of the Plains is a 40-foot sculpture at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers in Wichita. The sculpture displays an Indian chief and is surrounded by several fire pits that are briefly lit in the evening. The are pedestrian bridges that lead to Keeper of the Plains, which has become an iconic symbol of Wichita.
Keeper of the Plains by Art Davis / CC BY 4.0
The Wakarusa Wetlands, also known as the Haskell-Baker Wetlands, are located in eastern Kansas, near Lawrence. This area includes about 600 acres and presents some interesting opportunities for photography.
Wakarusa Wetlands by Patrick Emerson / CC BY-ND 2.0
Quivira National Wildlife Refuge
The Quivira National Wildlife Refuge is in south central Kansas. The salt marshes on the refuge attract a large variety of migratory birds. The refuge also includes sand dunes, prairie grasses, and woods. The refuge includes a few roads that provide access, and a 1.2 natural trail provides the best views. The trail has a boardwalk over the marsh area. The observation tower and photography blinds are also helpful.
Quivira National Wildlife Refuge by B. Jones / CC BY 2.0
Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge
Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge is in north central Kansas. Like Quivira, this refuge is also important for migratory birds. It features grasslands and wetlands, with a wide variety of plants and animals. One of the most noteworthy features is the wildflower trail, which is a great place to photograph in June when the wildflowers are blooming.
Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge by Tony Ifland / CC BY 2.0