Friday, November 4, 2016

Landscape-Final selection for the 8 Natural Wonders of the Red Hills

     Called the Gyp Hills towards the eastern portion and the Red Hills further west, this special landscape exhibits the antithesis to the common perception of a flat Kansas--not that there's anything bad about that though! But this two million acre area of southcentral-southwest Kansas portrays scenes of beauty rarely matched anywhere. Harboring the second largest intact prairie  in Kansas, the mixed-grass, this landscape harbors a corresponding complement of  unique plant and animal species. Natural resource experts have labeled the Red Hills as the second most important biological Kansas ecosystem as well, second only to the vast Tallgrass Prairie in the eastern part of the state and into northern Oklahoma. The Red Hills region boasts clear, spring-fed streams, bountiful white-tailed deer, cougars, Lesser prairie-chickens, spectacular wildflower displays, caves with bats, unique geological features, fossils of the Cretaceous seas of 100 million years ago and amazing scenery--all featured in earlier Natural Wonders of the Red Hills in this blog. Without further justification, let the pictures tell the story which presents the "landscape" as the 8th and perhaps the most definitive Natural Wonder feature of the Red Hills. Gyp Hills or Red Hills--my easy way to characterize the naming conundrum is that if gyp is showing, it's the Gyp Hills; otherwise "Red Hills" suffices well and is typically the name applied to the greater area typically known for the canyons, rolling hills, intact grasslands and special features of this Land of Enchantment.

Bear Creek Ridge greets the fortunate visitor just South
of Sun City, Barber County. In the fall, Sand Lily dresses up the prairie.

The most iconic feature of the Red Hills
is Flower Pot Mountain, here shrouded in morning fog.

Big Swartz Canyon in southeast Comanche County
ranks at the top of unique geologic and biologic features
in the Red Hills. Numerous caves are found here because
of the solubility of the whitish gypsum. This particular series
of gyp outcrops, ridges, caves and unique plants and animals
probably deserves special recognition by its own right as
a special natural wonder of not only the Red Hills but for
Kansas and this part of the Great Plains.

The mouth of Big Swartz Canyon features Swartz Mound (middle pointed
feature). Mr. Swartz supposedly had a trading post here in the late
19th century servicing local pioneers and settlers as well as an alternate
route from the Ft. Zarah to Ft. Supply trail. 

The incised canyons of southwest Barber County exhibit
the characteristic Blaine Formation layer of gypsum.

Livestock is an integral and very important aspect to
the Red Hills forming a critical relationship
between well-managed grazed range and a healthy landscape.

Big Round Cap is a treasured capstone on the eastern edge
of the Red (Gyp) Hills. Being closer to Medicine Lodge, one
must be careful to use the Gyp Hills moniker which is
the more common name used in these parts.

Cheyenne sandstone sports colorful lichens with a foreground
of Prairie Gaillardia in a beautiful area in  southeast Kiowa County.

After several years of drought, the Red Hills explode in
green beauty in this part of western Clark County. While
 called Gyp Hills further east, here they are
specifically called "Red Hills."
A butte on the eastern edge of the Red (Gyp) Hills reflects
through fog in one of the many ponds characteristic of this landscape.

A little bit of gyp, a splash of smooth sumac, with a backdrop of
rolling hills and the small town of Medicine Lodge adorn this image.
Morning fog shrouds the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River valley
in southwest Barber County.

The fall colors of sumac with still-green leaves against
the contrasting gypsum layer accent any images.

A landowner and resource specialist admire the
positive effects of the Anderson Creek Wildfire occurring
in March of 2016 and review benefits from prior cedar
cutting efforts performed by the rancher.

The escarpment from the eastern plateau of the
 Red (Gyp) Hills is one of the
most picturesque features of this Land of Enchantment.

The eight natural wonders of the Red Hills:
St. Jacob's Well, Caves, Wildflowers, Grasslands, Wildlife, Fossils, Streams, and the Landscape.