Glaciated Region of Kansas


Brandon Milner

This webpage project was created for a field geomorphology course in the 2007 fall semester at Emporia State University.

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The Glaciated Region of Kansas is in the northeastern corner of the state of Kansas. This area has some characteristics that are quite different than the other regions of Kansas, such as erratic specimens of rocks and minerals. This area was shaped by two major glaciation events, but one glaciation that occured about six hundred thousand years ago left a lasting effect on the region (KGS, 1999). This report will draw emphasis on the general physical characteristics of the region, as well as unique characteristics that define it. The boundaries of this region are defined by the Blue River to the west and the Kansas River to the south.

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This photo is from (KGS, 1997) and modified by (Milner, 2007). The area of interest is emphasized by the black lines, which represent the two rivers that essentially mark the boundary of glaciation.

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Typical Landforms

Spillways of drainage basins- The main landforms that can be seen in the glaciated region include major spillways that are regions of lower land created as ways for excess water from glaciation events to drain. The area of the Big Blue River Valley and the Missouri River Valley originated from the boundaries of the glacier. These two valleys helped to control the water that melted from the glacier so it would drain the water away from the glacier. Other valleys in the region assisted in the movement of meltwater away from the glacier, but some of these drainage areas now no longer are active rivers or streams.

The town of Marysville is located in part of the Blue River Valley or spillway. The old channel of the river went right through the town of Marysville before it was rerouted so the town could be built (Photo from Brandon Milner).

Valleys buried with glacial deposits- Another landform of this region is buried sediment valleys. This is a valley that was cut through the bedrock by glacial meltwaters and was then filled with sediments over time. There are many of these buried valleys in the glaciated region that are usually between two areas of higher relief. A buried valley is sometimes hard to detect as there is no evidence of the previous or original valley before it was filled with sediment (KGS, 2005).

Buried valleys are usually filled with different assortments of sediments. Such sediments include different sizes of material such as sands, clays and some gravels (KGS, 2005). The sediments that are near the bottom of the valleys can sometimes hold a clean water aquifer system.

An overall buried valley can be quite large in size. Some valleys could be up to multiple kilometers long and wide, and around one hundred twenty meters deep depending on how much meltwater went through them (KGS, 2005).

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Geologic Setting

The Glaciated Region of Kansas has several different aspects of geologic setting to be mentioned. Different aspects to be looked at include the ages of bedrock, the type of bedrock, and the types of soil associated with the region.

Typical Soils- The main underlying soil in the glaciated region is that of a fine silt or otherwise known as loess. This type of sediment is usually between 1/16mm and 1/256mm (KGS, 2005). As the glaciation period occured in Kansas, the glacier broke all the larger pieces of rock and material that it moved over into smaller and smaller pieces, which were then broken down enough to form tiny pieces of silt, otherwise known as loess. This loess was then transported around the region by drainage systems that moved meltwater away from the glacier. Loess was also transported by winds blowing around the area due to temperature changes. Deposits of this loess can be over thirty meters deep. Generally a rich soil has formed on top of the loess that is used for agrilcultural purposes in the region.

Geologic Rocks and Ages-

The ages of the bedrock in this region are from the Pennsylvanian, Permian and sometimes Cretaceous periods. The rock type associated with the ages of the bedrock are mainly limestone and shale, and in some areas there is sandstone.

However some other types of rocks are found at the surface due to the glaciation event. Erratic boudlers of quartzite from areas of Minnesota, Iowa, and South Dakota are found in the glaciated region of Kansas. This is due to the glacier breaking off pieces of the places covered as the glacier progressed (KGS,2005). The glacier also brought a deep and rich soil that is known as loess that is a rich and fertile, and is used by farmers today.

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Drainage Patterns


The drainage patterns of the glaciated region ran mainly through two main river systems. The Blue River Valley helped to complete the western edge of the Kansas River system. The Kansas River was not a complete west to east river from Colorado until after glaciation took place and helped to create temporary channels that made a new path for water to integrate the Kansas river.

Blue River Valley- The Blue River Valley was one of the main western drainage spillways from the glaciation period. There were two other drainage regions that occupied Republic and Washington counties of Kansas (KGS, 2005). The Blue River Valley is located at the western edge of the second glaciation that covered Northeast Kansas. This river drains into Tuttle Creek Reservoir, which then continues to the Kansas River.

Kansas River- The Kansas-Missouri River basin or valley is the southern edge of the Kansas glaciation. This river basin was already a feature of Kansas before the glaciation event. All of the meltwater from the glacier eventually was moved to the Kansas-Missouri River system from small drainage systems to the north and east. Drainage patterns created by meltwaters of the glacier helped to connect new parts of the river basin (Aber, 2005). However, a future glaciation helped to change the Kansas-Missouri River Basin path once again (Aber, 2005).

Modern Drainage

The Glaciated Region has the general characterstics attributed to a drainage system with streams and rivers that usually run all year round without going dry. Large river systems occupy this area and most rivers empty into the Kansas River.

The Blue River system still moves water toward the Kansas River, first emptying into the Tuttle Creek Reservoir, and then eventually into the Kansas River. The Republican River is another drainage river that empties into the Kansas River. Other river systems in the eastern part of the region also empty into the Kansas River.

Photo of Big Blue River system in Marysville, Kansas (Photo from Brandon Milner).

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General Climate,Vegetation, and Human Use of Area


The climate of this area can be varied and unpredictable with hot and dry summers and cold winters. The average annual temperature for Kansas is thirteen degrees Celsius, although each year has its own unique average (City Data, 2007). Average rainfall in the glaciated region can range from around seventy six centimeters in the western area of the region to around ninety centimeters in the western part of the region (Kansas State, 2007). This is a continental temperate type of climate.


This region is mainly made up of small area forests consisting of oak, hickory, and cottonwood. Other varieties of trees in this region inlclude Bur Oak, Black Walnut, and Willow trees (EPA, 2007). Some of these woodlands are located near floodplains around the river and stream systems. Other vegetation in this area can include some grasses including big and little bluestem, indiangrasses, stemgrasses, and cordgrass (EPA, 2007). Artificially planted vegetation used for agrilculture are raised in this region as the soil is well suited for the growing of crops.

Land Use

The general land use of this area is stictly for agrilcultural purposes. Some places in the area tend to be irrigated from local river and stream systems, while other places rely on rainfall alone. The main crops grown in the summer growing season include soybeans, milo or sorghams, barley, alfalfa, and more recently corn. The demand for corn in developing ethanol has made prices jump, and therefore it has now a more common crop being grown. A typical yet important crop grown during the winter in this region is wheat. Some of this area is used for pastureland, but not nearly as extensive as areas of the Flint Hills.

This image shows the early growth of wheat in the glaciated region, with a background of small parts of forest. Erosion can be seen in the middle of the field (Photo from Brandon Milner).

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Aber, J. S., 2005. Kansas City Glacial Geology., Accessed October 29th, 2007.

City Data, 2007. Kansas Climate., Accessed November 1st, 2007.

EPA, 2007. Ecoregions of Kansas., Accessed on October 25th, 2007.

KGS, 2005. Glaciated Region: Rocks and Minerals., Accessed October 25th, 2007.

Kansas Geological Survey, 1997. Physiographic Map of Kansas., Accessed October 31st, 2007.

Kansas Geologic Foundation, 2007. The Landforms and Landscapes of Kansas., Accessed October 27th, 2007.

Kansas Geological Survey Ground Water, 1993. Ground Water Occurrence,, Accessed October 31st, 2007.

Kansas Geological Survey, 2005. Summary of Pleistocene Drainage Changes., Accessed October 25th, 2007.

Kansas State University, 2007. Precipitation Maps of Kansas., Accessed October 31, 2007.

NetState, 2007. The Geography of Kansas., Accessed October 28th 2007.

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This webpage was created on November 15th, 2007.

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