Named as one of the “Eight Wonders of Kansas” Monument Rocks or the “Pyramids” as they are known locally are located in the south-west corner of Gove County. These large chalk formations make for a great side trip for people traveling across Kansas on I-70 or traveling north or south on US Highway 83.
Located just a few miles east of Highway US 83 between Scott City and Oakley, Monument Rocks can be reached by traveling east from US 83 on well-marked county roads. Less than 20 miles from busy Interstate 70 they are perfectly located for a short side trip or an all-day exploration of this fascinating area. Although it is located on private property they are open to the public. Please be respectful and obey the restrictions to help keep this area open for all to enjoy.
Monument Rocks became the first area in Kansas to be designated as a National Natural Landmark by the Department of Interior on October 31, 1968.
An area rich in history and located along the Smokey Hill River, Monument Rocks was an important landmark on the Butterfield Overland Dispatch trail. It was also close to the location of Fort Monument which was established in November 1965 to help protect the traffic on this important stagecoach and mail route. Also known as “Fort Pyramid” the fort had a relatively short history as the troops stationed there were withdrawn in June 1868.
Rising about 50 feet from the surrounding short grass prairie, this area of Kansas is rich in fossils, having once been part of a large inland sea known as the Interior Niobrara seaway that extended from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. A local county road runs between different sections of “Pyramids” giving the visitor easy access.
One notable and often photographed part of Monument Rocks is what is known as the “Keyhole” or “Keyhole Arch”. Folklore has that this arch started to form many years ago after someone started shooting at the rocks and a bullet went through a thin part of the formations starting what would eventually erode to this cool arch formation. It is likely that erosion will eventually cause this arched opening to disappear dividing this section in two. The “Keyhole Arch” is a popular place for portraits of visitors visiting this unique part of Kansas as well as a great place to capture a beautiful sunset or sunrise picture.
Located in a rural area there are no public restrooms or other facilities at Monument Rocks. Visitors who plan on spending the day exploring this area should bring their own water as well as packing a picnic lunch. Of course be sure to be considerate of others and protective of this important piece of history and leave nothing behind but your footprints.
Getting to Monument Rocks is relatively easy in good weather; however the county roads can become very muddy when it rains so caution should be used if rain is in the forecast or it has been raining or snowing.
There are many species of wildlife native to this area, one of which you need to be careful of, especially in warmer weather, and that is the rattlesnake. While this writer has never encountered a rattlesnake in his numerous trips to Monument Rocks, the wise traveler still needs to be alert and careful as they are native to this area of Kansas. Other wildlife species common to this area include white tail and mule deer, many species of hawks, pronghorn antelope, jackrabbits, coyotes and raccoons, among others.
While in the area be sure to plan on visiting the Keystone Gallery, located on Highway 83 not far south of the Smokey Hill River. Another interesting and related stop in Oakley, Kansas is the Fick Fossil and History Museum which houses an amazing collection of fossils and sharks teeth that were found by the Fick family in the chalk bluffs and badlands along the Smokey Hill River. Other local attractions in this area include "Battle Canyon" and Scott County State Park.