By Tammy Trail
With this month’s topic being Natural Wonders, I had a very hard time choosing just one. I love my home state of Kansas, so it wasn’t hard to choose where. As you drive across it, the flat land attests to why we have so many tornadoes. However, you may be surprised to learn, not all of the state is flat, and Kansas claims eight natural wonders. Here are some of them.
You probably have heard of the Badlands, but did you know it’s a term for a certain kind of land formation? The Arikaree Breaks (pronounced: A-rick-kar-ee) are the Badlands located in Northwest Kansas. They were created by deposits of sand and other minerals carried by the wind and then eroded by water. In the case of the Arikaree Breaks, they form thirty-six miles of canyons and ravines that are two-to-three-miles wide. Its terrain lies between the plains of northwestern Kansas and eastern Colorado. You can find this natural wonder near the town of St. Francis in Cheyenne County.
A second wonder is the silent prairie, covered by many yucca or soapweed plants, and possessing very few trees. Two species of sage that flourish in the Breaks don’t grow anywhere else in the state. It also boasts as many as sixteen different kinds of rare plants. Wildlife such as ground squirrels, kangaroo rats, and black-tailed prairie dogs make their home there. Bird watching is a great pastime with Horned Larks, Vesper Sparrows, Western Meadowlarks, Mourning Doves, and the American Kestrel.
Interested in a tourist map loaded with historical stops? The city of St. Francis has produced one that’s full of history. A third wonder is marked as a metal surveyors’ seal you can stand on and brag about being in Kansas, Colorado, and Nebraska all at the same time.
A fourth wonder is Devil’s Gap. It’s a rock formation used as a marker by the Cheyenne Indians as they traveled between their encampment at Cherry Creek and Julesburg, Colorado. These Cheyenne were the survivors of the famous Sand Creek Massacre. On the 29th of November in 1864, survivors of the Sand Creek Massacre fled to Cherry Creek in the Arikaree Breaks to hide and wait to be joined by other Plains tribes. There they regrouped to organize retaliation on Fort Rankin for the Massacre against innocent people. There is also a memorial for those tribal people who lost their lives at Sandy Creek.
Horse Thief Cave, a fifth wonder, sounds just like its name suggests. As a large hideaway, it hid thieves and their stolen horses for days. Unfortunately, floods destroyed it in 1936. When the county cut roads through the prairie. it caused the roof of the cave to collapse. The entrance still stands, however, and creates a natural bridge.
Writing Prompt: Are there any natural wonders in your state?