What’s been somewhat of a hidden treasure in western Kansas soon will be unveiled to the public.
Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park between Oakley and Scott City will greet the public with towering, 85-million-year-old chalk formations that stretch as far as the eye can see. The 332 acres of badlands features 220 acres of dramatic chalk rock formations, with fossilized evidence of sea creatures, such as fish of all sizes, clams, oysters, squid and other life forms from many years ago, when an inland sea covered what’s now Kansas.
As the state’s largest Niobrara Chalk formation, it’s long been investigated by scientists, with much notable material collected in past generations now on display at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays — another wonderful attraction in western Kansas.
With Little Jerusalem, much attention to detail has gone into planning for public access to viewing of the chalk formations and inscriptions that are highly fragile and erodible. It’s important to give visitors a chance to take in and appreciate the beauty of the site, while still protecting the grounds and chalk formations for future generations to enjoy.
Groups involved managed to strike a proper balance. Little Jerusalem is owned by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), a global nonprofit conservation organization, and is part of the 17,200-acre Smoky Valley Ranch. Located in the Smoky Hill River drainage basin, the Smoky Hill River runs through the ranch.
TNC was wise to partner with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) in the quest to designate Little Jerusalem as a unit of the state park system. TNC, which works to protect nature, can continue to promote that mission while relying on assistance from the state for oversight of public access — a sensible partnership.
The anticipated grand opening of the badlands park is set for Saturday, Oct. 12. Gov. Laura Kelly is expected to be at the ribbon cutting. A former executive director of the Kansas Recreation and Park Association, Kelly supported the addition of Little Jerusalem Badlands to a state parks system that helps deliver quality of life and economic development and growth.
Little Jerusalem grand opening activities will include free, guided tours. Space for the tours is limited and advance registration is available at nature.org/littlejerusalem. After the grand opening, the park will be open to visitors from sunup to sundown daily, year-round, with guided tours available by appointment through the KDWPT.
Kansas has cause to celebrate the public debut of a one-of-a-kind landscape and world-class sightseeing opportunity. With a unique ability to showcase history and flaunt stunning beauty, it’s a true Kansas treasure.