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).
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.
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 (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.
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; 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 Earth@Home 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.”
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
Sternberg Museum of Natural History
Fick Fossil & History Museum
Oakley, Kansas. Features folk art, much of it composed of Cretaceous fossils from western Kansas.