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The Earth Science Department
Emporia State University
Emporia, Kansas USA


The Central Kansas Virtual Field Trip

created by Mike Driessen and images taken by Dr. Mike Morales

Welcome to our field trip to the Smoky Hills physiographic province in central Kansas. The ESU Geology Club organizes and participates in various field trips and educational activities throughout the year. This particular trip, primarily for collecting rocks, minerals, and fossils, was taken in 1999 to Kanopolis State Park (Ellsworth County), Wilson Lake State Park (Lincoln and Russell counties), and Mushroom Rock State Park (south of Carneiro, Ellsworth County). [More information regarding the the Smoky Hills is available at the Kansas Geological Survey.]

First, a plan is developed for the trip. Two club members, Heather Ashcroft and Scott Chilcutt, are working on the details. They are planning the shortest route and what to see along the way.
The first stop is at Lake Kanopolis State Park. We're gathering turritella fossils, some of which are pyritized, pyrite, and chalcopyrite. Turritella are fossils of a high spired gastropods or snails, which are preserved in the Kiowa Shale.
Heather (front left), John Votapa (front right), and Scott (back) are scouring for fossils at the water's edge, while Professor Emeritus Paul Johnston, Professor Rich Sleezer, and Mike Driessen (not pictured) are around the corner digging in the shale beds.
Our next stop is at Mushroom Rock State Park.
The sign may be read by clicking on the image at the right to enlarge it.
These sandstone concretions are eroded and balanced on the Kiowa Shale.
Unfortunately some people do not value the rock formations as they are in nature and have left their mark. Although it is a crime to deface a state park, some of the older carvings are interesting.
A hand is used for scale on these carvings.
Scott, Mike, Heather, and John are here to give you an idea of the size of these titan-sized, fungi-shaped rocks.
We decided this one resembled a shoe! The sandstone's cross bedding is nicely visible on this mushroom without a base. Heather, John, and Mike are available for scale.
This sandstone concretion was split by tree growth! Notice the small rock to the left of the boulder. The tree grew into and through a fracture, breaking the concretion over time. The stress of the comparativley rapid growth of the tree caused the rock to break off the main piece, probably with help from freeze-thaw action common to Kansas winters.
Our next stop was to hunt for fossilized leaves preserved in the Dakota sandstone. These rocks appeared green from a distance. On closer inspection we found the rock covered in lichens, which merely cast the green appearance.
A plesiosaur flipper was found near to Wilson Lake State Park and is on display at the Paul Johnston Geology Museum. Surrounding outcrops are good shell collecting areas for ammonites. John, Heather, and Mike are picking through the Greenhorn Limestone and Graneros Shale beds.
More searching in the limestone and shale beds by Paul, Scott, John, Heather, and Mike. Another nearby site yielded gypsum or selenite and fossilized shark's teeth.
We will end the trip, not with the usual sunset image, but rather a beautiful sundog or rainbow that circled the Sun!


You are currently the person to access this page since February, 2000. Thanks for visiting! This page originates from the Earth Science department at Emporia State University. The curriculum is © by the author, 2000. For more information contact S. W. Aber, e-mail: Thanks for visiting! Created: 22 February, 2000.

copyright 2000-2002 © Susan Ward Aber. All rights reserved.