You’ve seen the ultimate Kansas waterfall road trip. Now try a more zoned in waterfall road trip specialized for northeast Kansas in this Northeast Kansas waterfall road trip! This one is made for people in the area of Kansas City, Lawrence and Topeka. I’m going to take you on a road trip to seven (or more if you hit the optional side trips) beautiful waterfalls in northeast Kansas.
Starting in the heart of Kansas City, on the Kansas side, is a beautiful waterfall one would never expect to be in the middle of a city. Located in a place aptly called the Waterfall Park in Merriam, Kansas is Turkey Falls. This waterfall is typically flowing year round. Once you’ve had your fill of Turkey Creek Falls, it’s time to head northwest to Lansing.
One of my favorite waterfalls in all of Kansas is Angel Falls in Lansing, Kansas. To find Angel Falls, you have to park at the St. Francis de Sales church, and walk the beautiful hiking path about a tenth of a mile south to the falls. After checking out Angel Falls, it’s time to head north to Wathena for our next waterfall!
Walnut Creek Falls
South of Wathena, Kansas
One Glacial Hills Scenic Byway, which is a beautiful drive in it’s own right! However, we’re on a waterfall hunt, so they can wait for another day. Just south of Wathena, nearby the Missouri River, is a beautiful little cascading waterfall that creates a sort of waterfall called Walnut Creek Falls. Once you’ve gotten your fill of Walnut Creek Falls, it’s time to head for Lawrence and our next waterfall!
Optional Side Trip #1: Buck Creek Falls – Hidden in the country to the north of Lawrence is this beautiful rippling waterfall called Buck Creek Falls.
Optional Side Trip #2: Bowersock Dam Falls – You will likely see this one just driving to Wakarusa River Falls, as it stretches the Kansas river in Lawrence.
Wakarusa River Falls
Clinton Lake, Lawrence, Kansas
From Walnut Creek Falls near Wathena, you’ll have to head southwest towards Lawrence to get to Wakarusa River Falls. This waterfall is just downstream from the spillway at Clinton State Park along the Wakarusa River. It’s a great fishing spot as well as making for a wonderful place to just relax and enjoy the sound of rushing water.
Southeast of Topeka, Kansas
From Clinton Lake head west towards Overbrook. A few miles north from Overbrook is the historic Swissvale town, where you’ll stop to hike along a rail to trail project called the Landon Nature Trail. It won’t look much like a trail, but rather a line through a farmer’s field that used to be a railroad track. If you hike north from the road for a third of a mile or so, you’ll arrive at Swissvale Falls along Camp Creek. This is one of my favorite waterfalls in Kansas.
Optional Side Trip #3: Santa Fe Falls – In spring and times of high rainfall, this one is worth checking out. On your way back towards Kansas City from Swissvale Falls, stop in at Edgerton, where the dam spillway creates a pretty waterfall.
Cedar Lake Falls
From Swissvale Falls, you’ll head back towards Kansas City until you get to Olathe, where you’ll make a stop at Cedar Lake’s spillway. If rain has been flowing, you’ll find a fairly impressive waterfall here called Cedar Lake Falls. After exploring for a while, we’re off to our final waterfall of the trip! It’s just a couple miles away.
Cedar Creek Falls
Just a couple miles north of Cedar Lake Falls is Cedar Creek Falls. This waterfall is located on the south side of Lake Olathe, where Cedar Creek flows into the lake. It’s a wonderful fishing spot, and a great place to finish off this northeast Kansas waterfall road trip!
The Sunflower State is known for a few different crops. Wheat, corn, etc. But it’s symbol is the sunflower. Surprisingly, depending on the area of Kansas you’re in, finding a sunflower field can be pretty difficult! First off, there’s a difference between wild sunflowers and sunflower crops. Wild sunflowers can be found throughout a number of months in the summer and fall. Sunflower fields, however, have a much smaller window of opportunity. Crop sunflowers typically only bloom for a couple of weeks before the flowers become droopy, black and ugly. If you want to find sunflowers that are in full bloom with healthy, beautiful yellow flower pedals, it might take a little work. Typically sunflower fields start popping up in August and extend until late September depending on when they were planted. I’ve built this guide to keep track of where the sunflower fields are blooming around Kansas.
However, I’m only one person, so if you know of a sunflower field that’s currently in bloom, I’d love to have a report! Same with any reports of the condition of a field. Just send me a message on my contact page and give me any information you have on it! A link to a Google map, a street address or the intersection of two streets that the field sits on would be helpful. In addition, the bloom-stage of the sunflowers would be helpful as well! Are they at peak? Starting to droop? Still a week away from bloom? Those are the kinds of status updates I’d love to give!
NOTE: While at sunflower fields recently, I’ve noticed lots of people that have been ripping off the heads of sunflowers to take them home. Grinter Farms has a donation box that lets you do this, but other sunflower fields that farmers own are private property and not necessarily open to the public! The least you can do if you are taking advantage of someone else’s field is to respect their property. Please respect the property rights of these Kansas farmers. They’re trying to make a living just like you are!
So with that out of the way, here are the known sunflower fields (so far):
This one is the ultimate sunflower field in Kansas. I’ve heard it’s the largest (that’s not confirmed though). But it definitely brings in the most visitors! So much so that the place was shut down on Labor Day because of the amount of traffic blocking up the road and causing accidents! Grinter Farms has become a yearly tourist attraction around the Labor Day weekend for folks from Kansas City, Topeka, Lawrence and even from out of state. Thousands of people flock to Grinter Farms when sunflower season blooms. The best way to get updates on the condition of the sunflowers at Grinter Farms is to visit their Facebook page. I’m about to head up there to check the place out as I update this. Peak is right now, and sunflowers will probably begin to droop by early next week (Sept. 11). However, some of the sunflower fields were planted later and should start blooming soon! So a second peak will likely happen in a week or two!
Between Haysville and Derby
2500 East 79th Street South, Haysville, KS 67060 – Google Map
There’s a sunflower field along 79th street between Haysville and Derby. If you’re coming from Haysville, it’s just east of Hydraulic (16th St). From Derby, it’s just west of where 79th street curves south and turns into Hillside. This one was in full bloom as of Sept 7th! I’ll definitely be checking it out again in the coming days!
South of Pilsen
The intersection of Remington Road and 270th – Google Map
This one is located just south of Pilsen. I visited this one on August 25th and while there were some sunflowers already turning black, there were still a lot of happy colorful flowers as well.
Sept. 7th Update: This one is likely past peak at this point.
South of Marion
Just north of 150th and Sunflower Road – Google Map
A few miles south of Marion, along Sunflower Road (Old Hwy 77), this sunflower field was in full bloom just a week or so ago (August 20th or so). I drove by it on the evening of the 25th and it was starting to fade, but might still have some good flowers through the weekend!
Sept. 7th Update: This one is likely well past peak at this point.
North of Halstead
I found this one in 2015, but can’t remember the exact intersection it was located. It was just a few miles north of Halstead along Halstead Road. I drove it on August 24th in 2016 but there were no blooming sunflower fields. It’s possible I missed it and it had no bloomed yet, or it’s possible the farm didn’t plant sunflowers this year. I will take another drive in a week or two to check.
Sept. 7th Update: Haven’t been up to look recently, but hopefully soon.
Somewhere along Meridian Ave, south of Haysville, on the way to Peck is a sunflower field. I was tipped off by Virginia Scott Norton for this one. I haven’t driven down to check it out, but hope to soon!
Northwest of Lindsborg
1258 Wheatridge Road, Lindsborg, KS 67456 – Google Map
I found this one in 2015 after missing out on the one in Halstead. It was just past peak when I got there, but still pretty vibrant. I visited on September 12th, 2015 and it was maybe 3-4 days past peak. You can see what that sunflower field looked like in the image below. It’s just to the south of Coronado Heights and northwest of Lindsborg.
Sept. 7th Update: I’m hoping to check this one out soon!
This one is located just off of I-35 at exit 78. I found it last year on my way to Colorado for fall colors. It was blooming much later than other sunflower fields I’ve found. This was on the 22nd of September. No word on whether sunflowers were planted there this year, or if the timeframe will still be the same, but it might be worth keeping an eye on!
Lyndon 4H Sunflower Field
17977 U.S. 75, Scranton, KS 66537 – Google Map
Located about 8 miles north of the town of Lyndon, this beautiful sunflower field is in bloom in mid/late August. For more information on bloom times, visit the Lyndon 4H Sunflower Field.
Sept. 7th Update: Looking at their Facebook page, this one might still be going strong, but I haven’t been able to check it out.
While I don’t have any specific fields to report, Goodland is sometimes called the “Sunflower City” for the myriad of sunflower fields that dot the landscape. If you’re heading west, it might be worth driving around the roads around Goodland!
I’ve heard there are a number of fields to the south and west of Hutchinson, but haven’t received exact locations. I’m hoping to drive out that way in the next week to see if there’s anything good out there!
Ever wanted to go on the ultimate Kansas waterfall road trip? Well, I’ve got just the ticket for you! Below is a map to 9 of the most beautiful waterfalls in Kansas, with a few suggestions for add-on waterfalls as needed. There are certainly more waterfalls that could be included in this, but I limited it to the maximum amount of entries Google Maps would allow in it’s directions services. I also tried to make the loop go near many of the major cities in Kansas so that everyone could have a starting point. Head below the map for more detailed information about the trip.
Leg one begins just east of Wichita at Santa Fe Lake Falls. It makes a wonderful place to watch a sunrise to start your waterfall road-trip! This beautiful waterfall is maybe 10 feet or so in height and spans a few dozen feet across (possibly further, as I haven’t crossed the falls to see how far they actually go). Once you’ve had your fill, head up the turnpike and at Cassoday, head north to Chase State Fishing Lake.
Optional side trip: If there’s been a lot of rain, head east out of El Dorado to Eureka and visit Bachelor Creek Falls before turning back northwest to Chase State Fishing Lake.
Prather Creek Falls to Geary Falls
Prather Creek Falls is really a set of three-four waterfalls of varied heights. It’s totally worth exploring them all! From Chase State Fishing Lake, where Prather Creek Falls is located, you’ll head west on 150 and then north on 77. Eventually you’ll come to Geary State Fishing Lake, a few miles south of Junction City and I-70.
Optional side trip: Take 50 southwest to Cedar Point and check out the waterfall at the Cedar Point Mill.
Geary Falls to Pillsbury Crossing
Geary Falls is one of the largest and most impressive waterfalls in all of Kansas. One warning though: like many of the spillway waterfalls in Kansas, this waterfall can dry up when there hasn’t been much rain. So many sure to visit after some rain. To get there, park in the little parking lot on the north side of the lake and walk across the dam. You’ll hear the falls before seeing them. Get back on the highway and head east on I-70 to go towards Pillsbury Crossing.
Optional side trip: There are so many of them around Manhattan! Tuttle Creek Lake would make a great side trip, and has Tuttle Creek Canyon Falls coming out of it’s spillway.
Pillsbury Crossing to Angel Falls
From Geary Falls, you’ll jump on I-70, then eventually take the backroads to one of the most famous Kansas waterfalls: Pillsbury Crossing! On any given summer day this place can be overrun by folks enjoying the cool water. It’s a popular spot for the residents of Manhattan to spend their free-time outdoors. To get to Angel Falls, jump back on I-70 and take it all the way to highway 73 on the edge of Kansas City. Go north from there to Lansing.
Angel Falls is located along the hiking and bike path in Lansing, Kansas. The easiest way to visit it is to park in the Saint Francis de Sales Catholic Church parking lot and walk a quarter or so of a mile south along the path. You’ll see the waterfall from the path. While only 5 feet or so of a drop, Angel Falls is set in such a beautiful location that it’s hard not to include it on any best of Kansas waterfalls list! Once you’ve explored Angel Falls for a bit, jump back in the car and head back south of highway 73. From here, you’ll follow the Frontier Military Historic Byway south to Fort Scott, Kansas along highway 69. At Fort Scott, head west to Bourbon County State Lake.
Optional side trip: Rock Creek Falls is located in a small lake just southwest of Fort Scott. Three sets of drops define this waterfall before emptying into the Marmaton River a few hundred yards downstream.
Bourbon Falls to Elk Falls
Bourbon Falls have a drop of 20-30 feet in the spillway of Bourbon County State Lake. A nice pool creates a beautiful setting here. Make sure to hike up to the top of the falls as well for a great view down over the falls. When you’ve finished exploring the area, jump onto highway 39 to Chanute and beyond before heading west on highway 400. Take highway 99 south at Severy until you reach 160. From 160, head 10 or so miles back east to find the city of Elk Falls.
Elk Falls. Located on the east side of town, along the Elk River is a natural waterfall of about 5 feet. It’s a popular spot for fishing. Once you’ve had your fill, jump back on the highway to the west and then south to Red Buffalo Ranch near Sedan.
Optional: A number of awesome optional side trips exist around here. Wildcat Creek Falls is located in Moline, just a mile or two off the road. The waterfall at the Hollow in Sedan is another great optional side trip. But the best is probably Chautauqua Falls, just off the highway between Moline and Sedan. If there’s been a decent amount of rain, this one can really get flowing!
Butcher Falls to Cowley Falls
Just northwest of Sedan is the Red Buffalo Ranch. On it’s property is the beautiful Butcher Falls. Cascades of water drop about 10-20 feet into a large pool below. It’s a wonderful place to visit in all seasons, unless there’s been major drought.
Once you’ve explored Butcher Falls, the last stop is Cowley Falls. Located east of Arkansas City, in the spillway of Cowley State Fishing Lake, Cowley Falls are some of the most popular falls in Kansas. A drop of 20-30 feet exist, and while the falls can dry up sometimes, if there’s a decent rain, water can be flowing any time of the year. To get there, just head west on 166 from Butcher Falls until you reach Cowley State Fishing Lake.
Optional: Check out Osro Falls, along the Caney River.
Whether it’s the Perseids in August or the Geminids in December, Kansas is a great place to watch a meteor shower! It’s also a great place to photograph meteors! This guide should help you find some amazing spots in Kansas.
First off, like any good meteor shower guide, dark skies are the key to maximizing how many meteors you will see! That’s not to say you can’t view a meteor shower from a city. Even within cities such as Wichita, Topeka and Kansas City, it’s still possible to see a few meteors this time of year. But the further away from major towns you can get, the skies will become darker, the more stars you will see, and inevitably, more meteors!
Second, not only do you need to keep in mind that light pollution from cities and towns will drown out all but the brightest of meteors, but the moon is a major source of light as well. Even a half moon is bright enough to drown out a large percentage of meteors. Finding a time when the moon is not in view is critical to good meteor viewing. Websites like Time and Date can be really helpful to find out if there will be a new moon or when the moon rises and sets.
Obviously clear skies are the best condition with which to view meteor showers. But even if the sky isn’t perfectly clear, you can still see a few meteors in partly cloudy skies. Be persistant and watch the weather to see what it will be doing on any given night. Also keep in mind that even though a meteor shower may peak on a certain date, many showers will start well before that date, and linger on for a while.
With all that out of the way, I’m going to give you some pointers on some of my favorite Kansas locations to check out!
Kansas Dark Sky Locations
My favorite place to view dark skies and meteor showers in Kansas is the Flint Hills! The Flint Hills are full of so many awesome spots to view a meteor shower it isn’t even funny! I could fill a book on the countless backroads, landmarks, lakes and other places that would make the Flint Hills the perfect place to view a meteor shower. Let’s run through a few spots though!
Teter Rock. This little gem in the Flint Hills east of Cassoday has been my go-to place for years as a night photographer! The skies are fairly dark in most directions from here. There’s a hint of light pollution to the northeast where Emporia is and to the southwest where El Dorado is and you can see the flashing lights of the wind farm to the south, but overall, you’re far enough from all of these that it shouldn’t be a problem. To get there, visit Teter Rock’s page on Kansas is Beautiful for a map and directions to the right location.
Sometimes during major meteor showers, Teter Rock can actually get kind of packed with astrophotographers and other folks just trying to find a dark spot for meteor viewing. So if you run into a small parking lot of cars here, don’t worry, there’s a plethora of backroads in the area where you can park just about anywhere to view the meteor shower. One such road is the open range road out to Texaco Hill, another great spot with views in all directions. This road is just a little further to east from the Teter Rock turn, and heads north for a few miles across gorgeous Flint Hills open-ranch road. View the Texaco Hill and Flint Hills Wildlife Drive for more spots along the backroads in this area of the Flint Hills. Just about anywhere along the Flint Hills Wildlife Drive will produce beautiful dark skies and great scenery for meteor shower viewing! Just remember you are on open range road, so cattle might be on the road.
If you were hoping for a spot closer to a major highway in the Flint Hills, the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is technically open 24 hours to hiking. Any trail along there would yield great views in all directions, with only the small towns of Strong City and Cottonwood Falls to the south as light pollution competition. If getting out and hiking in the dark isn’t your thing, Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse is just off the highway in the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and provides a wonderful place to watch the meteors.
Further to the northeast, as you get closer to some of the major cities of Kansas is another backroad that has great open sky views. Just west of Topeka, near Alma, is a gravel road called the Skyline Drive. It’s aptly named, because it follows along a ridge on the edge of the Flint Hills. Just about anywhere along this drive has views that span for dozens of miles. It makes for a wonderful spot to stop and watch a meteor shower. I shot the photo below during the Eta Aquarid’s meteor shower in May.
Another great spot in Flint Hills are the hills above the eastern side of Tuttle Creek Lake. Chase State Fishing Lake near Cottownwood Falls could make another great spot for meteor viewing.
In northeast Kansas, the northern stretches of the Glacial Hills Scenic Byway are far enough away from Kansas City and the surrounding towns to produce some darker skies. The further west from there that you go into the rural backroads will only get darker and darker as well. Heading to the southeast part of Kansas, many of the state parks could make great dark sky spots for viewing. Somewhere along the dam at Elk City State Park or above Bourbon Falls at Bourbon County State Fishing Lake could make great spots for meteor viewing!
Moving over in south central Kansas, Cowley State Fishing Lake is always a dark sky area. I shot the image above back in February. The lake is down in a valley though, so finding a spot on a hill overlooking the lake would be better than at the shoreline of the lake. Any area down here (as long as you’re a few miles from Ark City and Winfield) should make for dark skies, as Wichita is many miles away.
Further north, into central Kansas lies Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, the Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway and Cheyenne Bottoms. Full of many ponds, lakes and wildlife, this can be a great place to view the stars as well. Just make sure to bring bug spray if you’re out early in the evening! The mosquitos are thick in these parts! But on a windless night the plethora of stars with meteors and the Milky Way reflecting in the wetlands makes for a wonderful night of star-gazing!
Moving a little further north, the Prairie Trail Scenic Byway has a plethora of fun places to watch a meteor shower from, so long as you stay away from the bigger towns of McPherson and Salina. Near Lindsborg, Coronado Heights is a nice spot high above the surrounding Smoky Valley hills. If you’re from central Kansas, it’s a great place to star-gaze and you’re for sure to see some meteors. Moving further west along the Prairie Trail Scenic Byway will only get better as you move away from the lights of I-135 and it’s cities. Scenes like the ones below will become the norm out in the rural areas along this fantastic stretch of Kansas byway.
Along this byway, a few of the great state parks of Kansas can make for some great dark sky viewing as well. Kanopolis State Park provides a great place to throw down a tent and sit out under the stars to admire the meteor shower. Just down the road, along a small gravel road stretch of the Prairie Trail Scenic Byway lies Mushroom Rock State Park, another great spot to watch meteors fly by.
Moving southwest from here, anywhere in the Gypsum Hills would make a solid spot for dark skies to watch the meteor shower. Anywhere along the Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway or the many backroads nearby make for wonderful viewing spots far away from any major city. Medicine Lodge is the only larger town in the area, and it sits on the east edge of the Gypsum Hills. Get a dozen miles or more to the west, and the skies will be full of stars! If you want to go even farther, head to the western edge of the Gypsum Hills to visit Big Basin for some great scenery and a major lack of light pollution!
And finally, western Kansas is possibly the best bet for great dark sky scenery! As long as some of the bigger towns, such as Dodge City, Garden City, Goodland, etc. aren’t within a few miles of you, you can pretty much park on the side of any backroad and enjoy! Some of my favorite spots include Monument Rocks (please note: I’ve been informed recently that permission is required to be there after dark), Castle Rock, Wilson Lake State Park or Lake Scott State Park. All of these places make for great dark skies viewing!
If you’re feeling really adventurous, a drive out into the Arikaree Breaks of extreme northwest Kansas would make for some serious star-gazing far removed from any major city! Extreme southwest Kansas also makes for wonderful meteor shower viewing. The Cimarron National Grassland is a wonderful place for watching meteors streak by. The best thing about the grasslands is the lack of towns to the north, where meteors should originate from.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading about some of the best places to watch meteor showers in Kansas. While the above locations may be some of my favorites for viewing and photographing the night sky here in Kansas, you can undoubtedly find dark skies in most locations around the state. Just get away from the big cities, wait for the moon to set, sit back and enjoy!
Tips on Photographing Meteors
For those aspiring photographers that would like to try their hand at photographing a meteor, I’ve got a few tips for you. First off, make sure you have a sturdy tripod! That’s the key! With the length of time your shutter will be open, there’s no getting around having some way to keep the camera steady during the shot. Another piece of equipment that’s helpful to have is a remote shutter of some kind. There are both wired and wireless versions out there. Wireless would obviously be best, as any amount of movement can cause even the tiniest of camera shakes.
Once you have your camera mounted up to your tripod, point the camera towards the constellation Perseus. Having a wide angle lens (14mm is great, 18mm, even 24mm will do) to capture as much of the sky as possible will help get the most meteors. Light is precious at this hour of the night, so setting your aperture (f-stop) to be wide open will let in the most light. When it comes to the ISO and shutter speed, you’ll need to practice a little to see what works best.
Meteors are only in the sky for short periods of time. Most streak by in a blink of the eye. So the shutter speed can be a bit of a double edged sword. You need a longer shutter speed to capture more light from the stars and foreground, but you don’t want it too long as the light from the meteor will fade. If you exposure for 30 seconds, and that meteor is only in the sky for 1/4 of a second, it would have to be a really bright meteor for it not to be partially darkened out by the other 29 and 3/4ths of a second of darkness that the rest of the shot will register.
With ISO, some cameras do better at higher ISOs than others. A good rule of thumb would be to start at around 6400 ISO and work down. If you can get by at 2000, the less grainy the shot will be. But the higher the ISO, the shorter your shutter speed can be. Just practice with these two settings and find a good balance.
Also, being able to set your camera up on a continuos burst of shooting can save you some work. If you can set the camera to continuously shoot, eventually you’re almost guaranteed to catch a meteor or two! But with all things photography, practice makes perfect. And just being out there trying to get a photo of a meteor can be quite the fun ordeal!
One more note about shutter speed worth considering is the movement of stars in the sky. Depending on the focal length, you will start seeing something called star trails if your shutter speed is over 20-30 seconds. Star trails look like the stars are moving in the sky. In reality though, the earth is spinning and moving through space, making the stars streak through the sky. Star trails can make for great shots, but when shooting meteors or the Milky Way, it’s not exactly welcoming. If possible, it’s best to keep your shutter speed at 45 seconds or below to minimize the trails.