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Monument Rocks/Chalk Pyramids

School Group at Monument Rocks
A school group stands on the base of "Old Chief Smoky," (also known as the Kansas Sphinx) an outcropping that fell down in 1986. Photo courtesy Fick Fossil Museum
“Monument Rocks” and “the Kansas Pyramids” are names used interchangeably for this historic landmark. Formally called Monument Rocks, they were inducted as the first National Natural Landmark in Kansas by the Department of Interior on October 31, 1968.

The site is located on private land in Gove County, Kansas. The Chalk Pyramids (their local name) used to feature a spire formation called the Sphinx, which went along with the Pyramid name. This formation, also called Old Chief Smoky, when viewed from the side resembled a human face.

This area is rich in history. The Butterfield Overland Despatch trail used Monument Rocks as a landmark to guide travelers through the region. Also, Ft. Monument was established nearby to protect the trail.

Cliff swallows at Monument Rocks
2004 brought an unusually wet spring. The cliff swallows, which are abundant in this area, found a new home. The swallows use mud to build these nests on the sides of the rock formations, then lay eggs and rear their young inside. They are active flyers, prolific bug consumers, and have amazing flying skills.
Monument Rocks plays an important role in the history of the Smoky Hill Valley area. It has been a tourist destination for many years. Visitors from all regions view these monolithic structures, and the site is used for school group outings, star gazing, and picnics.Monument Rocks is accessible to the public and has a county road running between these formations. Use our map to find out how to get to the rocks. One can walk between them and feel the texture of a 80-million- year-old ancient sea. You can view the geologic landscape and picture what the Indians used as a buffalo hunting ground.

Monument Rocks stands approximately 50 feet tall and the national landmark area encompasses just a few acres. These rocks are the remnants of the western Interior Niobrara seaway which extended from the present day Gulf of Mexico north through Canada. From the exposed sides, visitors can see layers of a gray gypsum mineral deposit and Ostrea congesta shells. However, please do not dig them out.  There are many shells lying on the ground.

Keyhole Arch

This arch continues to grow wider each year. Someday the top part will collapse, leaving spires instead. The Keyhole Arch is a relatively new name—an unknown photographer came up with this description.

The local lore says this arch was started by someone shooting at the rocks many years ago, when a bullet penetrated through a thin spot. People from this area have watched it expand through the years.


There are a few rules visitors should keep in mind when visiting the area. Please enjoy your visit, take as many pictures as you want, enjoy a picnic lunch, and breathe some fresh air.

You are welcome to visit our great fossil museum and purchase our locally designed Monument Rocks t-shirts and mugs.

Snow on the rocks
Seasonal changes bring out different characteristics in Monument Rocks. During the winter there is more contrast in the bands of color. This was the year of big snows in western Kansas. The snow hung in the rock crevices and swirled around the bases of the outcroppings in 1993.
To get a map to Monument Rocks, download a pdf of our brochure in screen resolution (139 KB) or print resolution ( 589 KB). You can also get only the map (10 KB).

Facilities and Roads

There are no public restroom facilities, gas stations, or restaurants in the immediate Monument Rocks area.

The county roads can also be extremely muddy when it is wet. Please use caution during wet weather as many people have become stuck going to the area. Tow truck operators usually refuse to go out there if the roads are muddy.

Now for the "Don'ts"

Please do not abuse this scenic location. Readers with common sense already know what this means. Also, please do not start bonfires or grills for cooking. Most of the year the grass is dry and can catch fire easily. If the wind is blowing, this also increases the likelihood of starting a prairie fire.

Do not climb on Monument Rocks! Signs are posted advising visitors of the no climbing rule and they are strictly enforced. The chalk composition is extremely fragile and pieces do break off.  Sometimes they are small, sometimes large.

Aerial photograph of the rocks

Those of us without wings sometimes use airplanes to view the Pyramids. The many roads that dissect the area are readily apparent from the air. Aerial photography is Barbara’s new hobby. These photographs give you a bird’s eye view.

Please do not pound on the rocks for fossils. The western Kansas chalk fossils cannot be quarried. As I have told many people, “You can dig a hole to China and not find anything.“ So leave the rocks for viewing. If everyone pounds for fossils in this location, there will not be anything left for future generations.

A common myth says that Vi and Ernie Fick found all the shark’s teeth displayed in the Fick Fossil Museum at Monument Rocks. This story is not true–they hunted for fossils in many different locations. Hopefully the shark’s tooth story will die away someday, but at the present time it continues being told and encourages people to dig for fossils in this locality.

Last but not least, please confine your visit to the Monument Rocks area. Do not wander off into the surrounding pasture. The landowners will find any trespassers and escort them out.

8 Wonders of Kansas

Monument Rocks and Castle Rock were selected as part of the 8 Wonders of Kansas contest.

©2015 Keystone Gallery / Photos © Barbara Shelton unless otherwise noted

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