Castle Rock and Castle Rock Badlands
Located in Gove County, Kansas not far south from Interstate 70, Castle Rock along with Monument Rocks were chosen as one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas by the Kansas Sampler Foundation in 2008.
Castle Rock is located in the Hackberry Creek Valley and was a landmark for early travelers on the Butterfield Overland Dispatch Trail and the Smoky Hill Trail. Stagecoach ruts are still faintly visible just north of Castle Rock.
Rising some 70 feet from the valley floor Castle Rock stands out as a distinct landmark that would have been visible for several miles either direction by those early travelers. Formed of Niobrara Chalk the spires of Castle Rock have somehow resisted erosion and stand in stark contrast to the prairie around them. While erosion and damage from a thunderstorm in 2001 has caused part of Castle Rock to collapse it still towers above the valley floor.
The chalk deposits that makeup both Castle Rock and Monument Rocks were thought to be deposited during the Cretaceous Period. At that time this area was underwater as part of a vast inland sea. The conditions on that ocean floor were perfect for preserving fossilized remains of ocean life. The Niobrara Chalk formations in this part of Kansas have yielded numerous fossils many of which can be seen at the Sternberg Museum in Hays, Kansas or the Fick Fossil Museum in Oakley, Kansas. One of the most famous fossils found in this area is the “Fish within a Fish” fossil that is on display at the Sternberg Museum. Even today it is not uncommon to find shark teeth or other small fossils in this part of Gove County.
On the south side of the Hackberry Creek Valley are the Castle Rock Badlands. The badlands contain several acres of Cretaceous Chalk formations and bluffs that are fascinating to view and explore. While Castle Rock is impressive many people find the badlands even more so. Comprised of several acres of chalk bluffs, spires and hoodoos the badlands are interesting to explore and photograph. Please remember that this area is private properly and an historical landmark so be respectful and do not cause any damage.
Getting to Castle Rock from Interstate 70 is relatively easy. Exiting the interstate at Quinter, Exit 107 if you are coming from the west you will head south on Castle Rock Road for about 15 miles then turn east on county road 466 until you come to the Castle Rock sign. For those coming from the east you exit I-70 at Collyer, Exit 115 and travel south on Banner Road for 125.5 miles then turn west on county road 466 and look for the Castle Rock Sign. After you see the sign to Castle Rock you will go over a cattle gate and soon arrive on top of a rocky bluff overlooking Castle Rock and the Hackberry Creek Valley. You can then follow a rough trail that winds you down to the valley floor past parts of the Castle Rock Badlands and to the base of Castle Rock itself.
Please note that the roads to Castle Rock are dirt and gravel and can get very muddy if there has been any recent rain. Also some of the trails or paths on the south side by the badlands can be very rough with deep ruts. Use extreme caution if you are driving a car or vehicle with low ground clearance.
Common wildlife in the area can include mule and white tail deer, pronghorn antelope, jackrabbits, coyotes, prairie dogs, ground squirrels, raccoons and different species of hawks. The area is also home to different species of snakes including the Western Rattlesnake so be careful when hiking or exploring the badlands or surrounding area as the rock formations make for good hiding and sunning spots for snakes.
There is no water or restroom facilities at Castle Rock and during the summer the heat can be intense. If you plan on spending time exploring the area it is best to have some water with you so you do not end up being as thirsty as this deer was. Please be sure to not leave behind any trash or evidence of your visit other than some great memories and pictures.