Photograph of Niobrara rock formations at Monument Rocks in Kansas.

Kansas Earth Science Quick Facts

Page snapshot: Kansas State Geologic MapFossil; Rock; Mineral; GemHighest and Lowest Elevations; Places to Visit; and Additional Resources.

Image above: Outcroppings of the Cretaceous Niobrara Formation at Monument Rocks in western Kansas. Photograph by Vincent Parsons (Flickr; Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license; image cropped and resized).

Geologic Map of Kansas


Geologic map of Kansas with physiographic regions identified.

Geologic map of Kansas showing maximum ages of mappable units. Image by Jonathan R. Hendricks for the [email protected] project developed using QGIS and USGS data (public domain) from Fenneman and Johnson (1946) and Horton et al. (2017).

Kansas State Fossils: Tylosaurus and Pteranodon

Kansas has not one, but two official state fossils: Tylosaurus and Pteranodon (the "p" is silent), which are both known from Cretaceous-aged deposits in the western part of the state. Neither are dinosaurs. Tylosaurus was a mosasaur, a large marine reptile. Pteranodon was a pterosaur, a type of flying reptile.


Photograph of a skeleton of Tylosaurus on display at the University of Kansas Museum of Natural History in Lawrence, Kansas.

Skeleton of Tylosaurus hanging over the entrance to the University of Kansas Natural History Museum in Lawrence, Kansas. Photograph by Jonathan R. Hendricks.


Partial skeleton of Pteranodon on display at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays, Kansas.

Partial skeleton of Pteranodon (orange background) on display at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History Hays, Kansas. Photograph by Jonathan R. Hendricks.

Kansas State Rock: Limestone

Limestone became the official state rock of Kansas in 2018. Ranchers once used limestone to build fence posts in Kansas, where wood supplies were limited.


Photographs of cows in a field that is surrounded by a barbed wire fence supported by limestone post rock.

Limestone fence posts in Mitchell County, Kansas (June 1966). Photograph by Grace Muilenburg/KGS. The source of this material is the Kansas Geological Survey website at https://www.kgs.ku.edu/. All Rights Reserved.

Kansas State Mineral: Galena

Galena became the official state mineral of Kansas in 2018.


Photograph of a sample of galena from Kansas.

Sample of galena from Kansas. Photograph by James St. John (Flickr; Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license).

Kansas State Gem: Jelinite Amber

The official state gem of Kansas (as of 2018) is jelinite amber, which has been found in the Cretaceous of Ellsworth County. Amber is fossilized tree resin.


"4.3" Kansas Amber (Jelinite) Specimen "Holy Grail of Kansas Minerals" by FossilEra (YouTube).

Kansas's Highest and Lowest Elevations


Topographic map of Kansas.

Topographic map of Kansas; beige colors indicate lower elevation, browns higher elevation. Topographic data derived from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM GL3) Global 90m (SRTM_GL3) (Farr, T. G., and M. Kobrick, 2000, Shuttle Radar Topography Mission produces a wealth of data. Eos Trans. AGU, 81:583-583.). Image created by Jonathan R. Hendricks for the [email protected] project.


Highest Elevation: Mount Sunflower

Kansas, while notoriously flat, slopes downward to the east. Mount Sunflower, half a mile from the state’s western border, is nearly indistinguishable from the surrounding flatland at 1231 meters (4309 feet) above sea level. The “summit” of this tongue-in-cheek topographic high point includes a sunflower sculpture made from railroad spikes and a plaque that reads “nothing happened here in 1897.”


Photograph of Mount Sunflower in western Kansas.

Mount Sunflower in Kansas. Photograph by Jimmy Emerson (Flickr; Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license).


Lowest Elevation: Verdigris River

The Verdigris River at Kansas’ border with Oklahoma is the state’s lowest point, at 207 meters (679 feet) above sea level.

Places to Visit


University of Kansas Natural History Museum

Lawrence, Kansas.


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Photograph of a large fossil fish, Xiphactinus, skeleton on display at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum in Lawrence, Kansas.

The large Cretaceous fish Xiphactinus, on display at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum in Lawrence, Kansas.


Sternberg Museum of Natural History

Hays, Kansas.


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Photograph of a short-necked plesiosaur skeleton on display at the Sternberg Museum, Kansas.

Skeleton of a short-necked plesiosaur on display at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays, Kansas.


Fick Fossil & History Museum

Oakley, Kansas. Features folk art, much of it composed of Cretaceous fossils from western Kansas.


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Image

American folk art of a shark made from the real vertebra and teeth of fossil sharks.

Additional resources


Learn more about the Earth science of Kansas and the surrounding region on [email protected]


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Simple map showing the five different regions of the South Central United States.

Use the Cretaceous Atlas of Ancient Life to identify Cretaceous fossils from Kansas and surrounding states.


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Screenshot of the homepage of the Cretaceous Atlas of Ancient Life website.

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