One of the things I love to do is to explore the backroads of Kansas. Whenever I get the chance I really enjoy spending a few hours or the complete day driving the dirt and gravel roads of Kansas enjoying the scenery and exploring new areas of this great state.
Sometimes these trips are pretty random adventures where I simply drive the back roads with no particular destination but other times I will have identified some landmark, a particular area or small town that I want to check out.
One tool that I have found to be helpful in identifying possible places of interest is the Delorme Atlas and Gazetteer of Kansas. While google maps and the internet are great sources of information I still love turning the pages of an atlas and studying the maps they hold and the Delorme Atlas is perfect for that with its detailed topographic maps.
Not long ago while in Western Kansas for my Dad’s 89th birthday, I happened to notice in the Atlas a “peak” called Pawnee Mound on the map that is located just east of Highway 83 in southeast Scott County. Listed on the map at 2988 feet I thought it would be interesting to see what if anything was there.
The next day not knowing what to expect, since I had grown up in Scott City and never heard of “Pawnee Mound”, we headed south out of Scott City to check out some of the storm damage from recent high winds in the area and to see if we could find Pawnee Mound.
Listed as the “7th highest mountain peak in Kansas and the 36440th highest mountain in the United States” by www.peakary.com...whose writers must have quite a sense of humor to label this area a mountain…we followed the map and google directions to arrive at the “summit” of Pawnee Mound.
The mound itself is still unbroken prairie full of yucca plants with one small lone pine tree on the southern side of the mound. The pine tree was short and weathered looking and kind of reminded me of pictures of Bristle Cone Pine trees you see on some arid mountains in the west. I could not help but wonder what if any stories that tree could share depending on how old it actually was.
While a quick internet search does not reveal anything of significance that ever happened at Pawnee Mound, it was an interesting place to visit as it is pretty much unchanged from when this part of Kansas was known as “The Great American Desert”. Just a few miles northwest of Pawnee Mound you will find Dry Lake, a large lowland area that while generally dry can hold some water in wet seasons.
Not far from Pawnee Mound is this old abandoned farmstead with must have been at one time a very nice two story farm house. Also at this farmstead there is an unusual octogan shaped wooden grain bin.
The area around Pawnee Mound and Dry Lake is mostly privately owned farm ground. If you decide to visit the “7th highest mountain in Kansas” be sure to be respectful of private property and stick to clearly defined roads.