2016 Year In Review Part 2

Posted on January 3, 2017 by Mickey

Part 2 of my 2016 Year in Review takes us from July through the end of the year. Feel free to read part 1 if you’ve haven’t yet!

Colorado and a Kansas gem

In July I took a fairly impromptu trip out to shoot wildflowers in Colorado. In the past 5 years, my Colorado trips have mainly focused on autumn colors, but I remembered how beauitul this shot of Blue Lakes up in the Sneffels range was in 2011 and thought it would be fun to try some new locations for wildflowers. We started out in the San Juans, exploring the Ice lakes Basin and the waterfall at South Fork Mineral Creek campground. The waterfalls there remind me more of the glacial-colored water of the Canadian Rockies than anything in Colorado. I would still love to go back and explore the entire length of them in the next couple of years.

Lower Ice Lakes Basin Falls
Lower Ice Lakes Basin FallsPrints AvailableWaterfalls at Lower Ice Lakes Basin
South Fork Mineral Creek Falls
South Fork Mineral Creek FallsPrints Available
Admiring South Fork Mineral Creek Falls
Exploring South Mineral Creek Falls
Exploring South Mineral Creek FallsPrints AvailableAdmiring South Fork Mineral Creek Falls

After exploring that area, we went north and stayed a night at my favorite campground at the base of Mount Sneffels. The next morning, we went on an adventure, trying to find a waterfall near Telluride called Mystic Falls. We forked left when we should have gone right and ended up at a much lesser known waterfall that I believe is called Upper Mystic Falls. Hikes like this are what adventures are made of, and everyone that was along loved it! I’m sure I’ll go back to find Mystic Falls itself sometime soon.

Unnamed Falls
Unnamed FallsPrints AvailableA little known set of waterfalls near Telluride

We moved up to the Crested Butte area, hoping to photograph the wildflowers there, but couldn’t find a campground. So we drove the 3 hours up to the Maroon Bells in hopes to getting there before the moon rose to capture the Milky Way above Maroon Lake. Unfortunately the moon rose shortly before we arrived and the scene wasn’t what I had hoped. I did come back in the autumn (more on that in part 2) to capture it, but we spent the night in the car, as it was already midnight. Afterwards, we found a campground up at Shrine Pass, near Vail Pass. I had never visited Shrine Pass but heard good things about the wildflower shows there. It did not disappoint! Here was one of my favorites:

Shrine Pass Wildflowers Star Trails
Shrine Pass Wildflowers Star TrailsPrints AvailableStar trails near Shrine Pass, Colorado

As we left Colorado, we drove a different route home so that we could swing through the Arikaree Breaks. We followed a rainbow, which turned into a double rainbow, for almost 2 hours until we reached Kansas and managed this shot near the Arikaree Breaks! This was one of the better shots that night.

Rainbow over Northwest Kansas
Rainbow over Northwest KansasPrints AvailableA double rainbow shows up near the Arikaree Breaks

Sunflowers and another Colorado trip

At the beginning of August, I took a quick drive up to the Manhattan area to photograph any leftover wildflowers. While I didn’t find a good patch of wildflowers to work with, I did find the Flint Hills on the east side of Tuttle Creek Lake to be extremely green for so late in the summer!

Pottawatomie Sunset
Pottawatomie SunsetPrints AvailableA sunset in the Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County

As late August approached, sunflower season began! I had missed out in 2015, due to extra hours at work keeping me from photographing as much as I would have liked, but I made up for it in 2016! I managed to visit 5-6 sunflower fields, included the famous Grinter Farms near Lawrence.

Sunburst Sunflowers
Sunburst SunflowersPrints AvailableSunset at a sunflower field south of Wichita
Pastel Sunflower Sunset
Pastel Sunflower SunsetPrints AvailableA beautiful sunset over a sunflower field near Pilsen
Flight of the Monarch Butterfly
Flight of the Monarch ButterflyPrints Available
Composite of a monarch butterfly as it made it’s way from flower to flower at Grinter Farms.
Grinter Farms Sunflowers
Grinter Farms SunflowersPrints AvailableSunflower fields at Grinter Farms

As late September approached, I decided to take a quick trip to Colorado. It turned out to be a little TOO quick, as the entire time just felt rushed. However, it did allow us to camp at Lake Scott State Park on the way out to Colorado, which gave me some great shots of Battle Canyon!

Battle Canyon Monument Milky Way
Battle Canyon Monument Milky WayPrints Available
The Milky Way over Battle Canyon
Battle Canyon Sunrise
Battle Canyon SunrisePrints AvailableSunrise over Battle Canyon

In Colorado, one shot stood out well above any other! I may have gone to Colorado for fall colors, but ended up with a great Milky Way shot over the Bells. Initialally I was worried about shooting this shot. There is a lot of moose (and even bear) activity around Maroon Lake, and walking through pitch black darkness from the parking lot to the lake wasn’t ideal. Even though it’s only 100 yards or so, it’s difficult to see in the dark like that. However, I didn’t need to worry. There were a dozen or so photographers with the same idea as me. So I set up shop and photographed for as long as I could withstand the cold to get both a Milky Way and star trail shot above the Maroon Bells. The wind picked up at one point towards the end, so I decided to call time. This was the final shot worth keeping:

Maroon Bells Milky Way
Maroon Bells Milky WayPrints AvailableThe Milky Way rises over the Maroon Bells

A circular trip around Lake Erie

In October my wife had a wedding booked in Ohio. So naturally, we turned it into a weeklong trip! Starting in New York, we drove up through the south of Toronto, where Hamilton’s famous waterfalls are located. We only had time to stop at a few before sunset that night, but the one that stood out was Tew Falls, which was gorgeous in the fall!

Tew Falls
Tew FallsPrints AvailableAutumn at Tew Falls

After visited Tew Falls, we drove the rest of the way up the Bruce Penninsula. At one point, I had to hit the brakes to keep from hitting what was either a very large coyote or a wolf. Eventually, we arrived at Tobermory, which is wedged between Lake Huron proper and Georgian Bay. This allowed us to explore the beautiful Bruce Penninsula National Park, along with seeing the Northern Lights. Unfortunately the photos didn’t turn out good at all, as the aurora had mostly died off before I could get my camera to a place worth getting a shot. But that area of Canada is downright beautiful! Not to mention, having some awesome fish and chips!

Tobermory Lighthouse Sunrise
Tobermory Lighthouse SunrisePrints Available
Sunrise at the lighthouse at Tobermory

After leaving the Bruce Penninsula, we traveled down along Lake Huron, through Michigan to Ohio, where I second shot for my wife at the wedding she had booked. After the 10 hour wedding (killer!), we drove two hours to stay near the Cuyahoga Valley National Park area, south of Cleveland. This area is stunning in the fall! I fell in love with the small waterfalls below Brandywine Falls. Below is one of my favorites from that morning.

Cuyahoga Valley Autumn
Cuyahoga Valley AutumnPrints AvailableFall leaves dot the landscape at the waterfalls below Brandywine Falls in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Next, we drove northeast, back to Niagara Falls. Yes, Niagara Falls is a tourist trap. But it was worth seeing! We were exhausted the first night there, but the firework display was only available that night, so we walked down along the river to witness this scene:

Niagara Falls Fireworks
Niagara Falls FireworksPrints AvailableFireworks over Niagara Falls

The colors along the Niagara Parkway were insane!

Niagara Colors
Niagara ColorsPrints AvailableAutumn colors along the Niagara River
Niagara Whirlpool Sunset
Niagara Whirlpool SunsetPrints AvailableSunset over the Niagara Whirlpool

The final morning at Niagara Falls gave us a beautiful sunrise over Horseshoe Falls!

Sunrise Plunge
Sunrise PlungePrints AvailableA beautiful sunrise over Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls
Horseshoe Falls Sunrise at Niagara Falls
Horseshoe Falls Sunrise at Niagara FallsPrints Available>A beautiful sunrise over Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls

Our final stop in our trip was to Watkin’s Glen, in the Finger Lakes region of New York. I had seen photos of Watkin’s Glen for years and always wanted to visit in the fall. Severe drought limited the water flow, but it was still insanely gorgeous! The most famous scene in Watkins Glen is at Rainbow Falls, just under a mile up the gorge. Here are both vertical and horizontal versions of this gorgeous part of Watkin’s Glen.

Rainbow Falls of Watkins Glen
Rainbow Falls of Watkins GlenPrints AvailableRainbow Falls is stunning in the autumn
Fall at Watkins Glen
Fall at Watkins GlenPrints AvailableAutumn colors dominate the landscape at Watkins Glen

To bring an end to 2016, I did go out and shoot a final Milky Way scene that I had been planning for a while. I’ve always wanted to get a shot of the Milky Way over the the Kansas Turnpike. So I went out one early evening in November to get this shot:

Kansas Turnpike Milky Way
Kansas Turnpike Milky WayPrints AvailableThe Milky Way rises above the Kansas Turnpike

As you can see, 2016 was a wonderful year! Looking forward to 2017, I already have two trips planned. In April, my wife and I will travel to Virginia for a few days. She will be going to a photo workshop, while I hope to get out to the Shenandoah Valley National Park for a couple of sunrises or sunsets. And in August and September, we will take a 15 day trip to Turin, Italy, where we will explore Switzerland, northern Italy and perhaps Austria, western France or southern Germany as well! Who knows what else will be planned as the year gets going! Not to mention all of the Kansas road trips I’m sure I will do! So keep checking back for new work and blog posts. I’ll do my best to update often!

Posted under: Canada, Colorado, Kansas, New York, News & Updates, Ohio

2016 Year In Review

Posted on January 2, 2017 by Mickey

I usually pick a top 10 list of photos for my Year in Review features, but this year seemed to be defined by experiences. First off, I had a goal of traveling Kansas extensively. I’ve done this for a few years now. The reason is simple: to publish a book titled Kansas is Beautiful. My goal with this book is simple. I plan to create the most beautiful book about Kansas ever created! Needless to say, I spent a lot of days getting up at 3 a.m. to visit places all around the state for sunrise. Or spending the majority of the night out under the stars in the Flint Hills or western Kansas. Depending on a number of factors, I hope to release Kansas is Beautiful either in 2017 or 2018.

In addition to my Kansas travels, I also went on a few adventures. Between two trips to Colorado, a quick trip down to Louisana and a big week-long trip around Lake Erie, through New York, Ontario and Ohio, I was blessed to see a lot this year!

Winter and Early Spring

My photography in Kansas usually slows down in the winter, limited to sunrises, sunsets and the occasional snowstorm. The winter of 2015-2016 turned out to be a bit of a dud. There was little snow, with the exception of a wonderful wet snowstorm on Easter Sunday. And so the best of my work began in February, as warm temperatures came early in 2016. It started by heading up to Cowley State Fishing Lake to capture the Milky Way just before sunrise in late February. I didn’t expect the falls to be flowing, but they were! So I grabbed a shot of the rising Milky Way over one of the most famous of Kansas waterfalls.

Cowley Falls Milky Way
Cowley Falls Milky WayPrints Available
A late February Milky Way rises over Cowley Falls

On my way back from shooting the Milky Way at Cowley Lake, some fog developed as I made it back to Wichita. I raced on down to the Keeper of the Plains and managed the sunrise shot below. It was a best seller throughout 2016.

Sunrise Fog at the Keeper of the Plains
Sunrise Fog at the Keeper of the PlainsPrints Available
Sunrise color penetrates the fog at the Keeper of the Plains

At the end of March, the annual burning of the Flint Hills began. I captured quite a few shots of it, but the one below was my favorite.

Burning of the Flint Hills
Burning of the Flint HillsPrints Available
The annual burning of the Kansas Flint Hills

Western Kansas and a trip to Bayou country

In early April I took a few days off work and went west. Stopping at Cedar Bluff State Park, Castle Rock and eventually my main destination of Monument Rocks and Lake Scott State Park. Monument Rocks is one of the most fascinating landmarks Kansas has to offer! Some of my best shots this year were taken out that way. Below are a few of them.

Monument Rocks Sunlight
Monument Rocks SunlightPrints Available
Sunset over Monument Rocks
Monument Rocks Milky Way
Monument Rocks Milky WayPrints Available
A Milky Way panorama over Monument Rocks
Monument Rocks Star Trails
Monument Rocks Star TrailsPrints Available
Star trails over Monument Rocks

In later April, my wife, Valerie Shannon Photography, booked a wedding gig down in Louisiana. So we took a couple days off and hit the road to see the Bayou Country. I don’t feel like I photographed all that many shots that would be considered some of my best, but it was still a fun trip to a new location. One of the better images from the trip was capturing this fox running across Oak Alley Plantation’s grounds early in the morning. The giant oaks in the south are something to behold!

Oak Alley Plantation Fox Panorama
Oak Alley Plantation Fox PanoramaPrints Available
A fox runs across the grounds of Oak Alley Plantation

A meteor shower, waterfalls and a trip to Big Basin

As warmer weather set in and May arrived, so did the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. I took 2-3 nights off work and set about shooting a number of Milky Way scenes with meteors. I didn’t manage very many meteor shots, with the exception of the one below, but was pretty happy with a few of the Milky Way shots.

Flint Hills Meteor Milky Way
Flint Hills Meteor Milky WayPrints Available
A meteor flashes across the sky in the Flint Hills
Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse Star Trails
Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse Star TrailsPrints Available
Star trails over Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

This shot with it’s silhouette of trees in front of the Milky Way and light pollution won the award of best Night photo KLM Airlines June photography competition.

Prairie Trail Milky Way
Prairie Trail Milky WayPrints Available
The Milky Way shines above the Prairie Trail Scenic Byway near Mushroom Rock State Park
Windmill Milky Way
Windmill Milky WayPrints Available
A windmill at Mushroom Rock State Park is defined by the lights of the Milky Way

Spring rains brought with them the rushing of waterfalls. I managed to bring my visited waterfalls in Kansas tally to over 70 this year. The four below were some of my favorites.

The Hollow
The HollowPrints Available
Butler Falls Deluge
Butler Falls DelugePrints Available
Heavy rainfall at Butler Falls
Geary Falls Fog
Geary Falls FogPrints Available
Geary Falls shrouded in fog after a decent rain
The Floodgates Opened
The Floodgates OpenedPrints Available
Santa Fe Falls are at full force after heavy rains

In late May, I took a wonderful 3a.m. trip to the Gypsum Hills for sunrise. My favorite shot from that little road trip was this sunrise shot from the edge of Big Basin.

Big Basin Sunrise
Big Basin SunrisePrints Available
Sunrise over Big Basin in the Gypsum Hills of Kansas
Golden Glow
Golden GlowPrints Available
Warm light basks the Gypsum Hills east of Little Basin in golden tones as the sun rises

The Flint Hills and a surprise visit by the Northern Lights

In early June, I took a trip up to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge to shoot the Milky Way. I wrote a long story that involves being stranded at Quivira for half the night. What I didn’t bargain for was capturing the faint Northern Lights showing up!

The Northern Lights in Kansas
The Northern Lights in KansasPrints Available
The Norther Lights at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge
Kansas Aurora Borealis Milky Way Panorama
Kansas Aurora Borealis Milky Way PanoramaPrints Available
The Aurora Borealis shows up on the left of this Milky Way panorama at Quivira

As the month of June moved on, I took a few trips out to the Flint Hills to admire how green everything was in 2016! My favorite sunset of the year happened on a trip to Texaco Hill, as seen below.

Flint Hills Spring Sunset
Flint Hills Spring SunsetPrints Available
Sunset at Texaco Hill in the Flint Hills
Texaco Hill Sunset
Texaco Hill SunsetPrints Available
Sunset at Texaco Hill in the Flint Hills

As all Kansan’s know, June also means harvest time. Golden wheat fields dot the landscape. And combines are out in full force! I managed two shots I was really happy with this past harvest.

The Sunrise Before Harvest
The Sunrise Before HarvestPrints Available
Sunrise at a field ready to be harvested near Wichita
June in Kansas
June in KansasPrints Available
Lightning crashes down around a John Deere combine

To continue reading my 2016 Year in Review, visit part 2!

Posted under: Kansas, Louisiana, News & Updates

Holiday Sale and the 12 Days of Christmas!

Posted on December 1, 2016 by Mickey

I’m excited to bring to you a new sale I’m running from now until December 13, 2016! Currently, all prints in my photography galleries are 15% off for my annual Holiday Sale! However, I’ve decided to do something special for a few of my new and best-selling images. The following 12 photos for the 12 days of Christmas are going to be on sale for 20% off! Each day, I will post one to social media, starting December 2nd and running through December 13th. Take a look below and click an image to go to a page where you can purchase prints of any of these images! If you don’t see the one you want, just remember that all other photos are on sale at 15% off! You can view more in the photo galleries.

Pottawatomie Sunset

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a Pottawatomie Sunset for you and me!

Pottawatomie Sunset
Pottawatomie SunsetPrints Available
Sunset over Pottawatomie County, Kansas

Niagara Colors

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, beautiful autumn colors along the Niagara River!

Niagara Colors
Niagara ColorsPrints Available
Niagara Colors

Geese at the Keeper of the Plains

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a beautiful sunset over the geese at the Keeper of the Plains!

Geese at the Keeper of the Plains
Geese at the Keeper of the PlainsPrints Available
Geese at the Keeper of the Plains

Monument Rocks Milky Way

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a sky filled with stars above Monument Rocks!

Monument Rocks Milky Way
Monument Rocks Milky WayPrints Available
Monument Rocks Milky Way

Maroon Bells Milky Way

On the five day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, another star-filled sky, but at the Maroon Bells this time!

Maroon Bells Milky Way
Maroon Bells Milky WayPrints Available
The Milky Way over the Maroon Bells

Maroon Bells Milky Way

On the six day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, one of the best sunsets of the year in the Flint Hills at Texaco Hill!

Texaco Hill Sunset
Texaco Hill SunsetPrints Available
Texaco Hill Sunset

Texaco Hill Sunset

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a gorgeous sunrise at one of the most rugged places Kansas has to offer!

Big Basin Sunrise
Big Basin SunrisePrints Available
Big Basin Sunrise

Grinter Farms Sunflowers

On the eight day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a field full of sunflowers at Grinter Farms in Lawrence, Kansas!

Grinter Farms Sunflowers
Grinter Farms SunflowersPrints Available
Sunflowers at Grinter Farms

Sunrise Fog at the Keeper of the Plains

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a flower bush and a foggy sunrise at the Keeper of the Plains!

Sunrise Fog at the Keeper of the Plains
Sunrise Fog at the Keeper of the PlainsPrints Available
Fog during spring blooms at the Keeper of the Plains

Fall at Watkins Glen

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a two mile hike up an autumn-drenched Watkins Glen!

Fall at Watkins GlenPrints Available
Fall at Watkins Glen

The Sunrise Before Harvest

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a fiery sunrise above Kansas wheat field ready to harvest!

The Sunrise Before Harvest
The Sunrise Before HarvestPrints Available
A beautiful sunrise during wheat harvest

The Sunrise Before Harvest

On the twelth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, one of Kansas’ best waterfalls in full flow!

Prather Creek Falls
Prather Creek FallsPrints Available
Spring waters flowing at Prather Creek Falls near Cottonwood Falls, Kansas
Posted under: Colorado, Kansas, News & Updates

Kansas State Parks Road Trip

Posted on September 30, 2016 by Mickey

With tomorrow being Healthy Trails Adventure Day, which allows free entry to any of the Kansas state parks, I thought it would be fitting to create a Kansas State Parks road trip!

Direct link to the map

Kanopolis State Park

Kanopolis Falls
Kanopolis FallsPrints Available
The beautiful spillway waterfall at Kanopolis State Park

Our first stop is Kanopolis State Park, just northwest of Marquette, Kansas. Kanopolis is a wonderful place to spend the sunrise. Take a hike on the Horsethief Canyon trail, visit the spillway waterfall and make sure to check out the actual lake!

Mushroom Rock State Park

Mushroom Rock Milky Way
Mushroom Rock Milky WayPrints Available
The Milky Way shines bright above Mushroom Rock State Park

Mushroom Rock State Park is just north of Kanopolis State Park by a few miles. It’s down a small dirt road. While the main rock that the park is named after is accessed via a quick 2-3 minute walk down the trail to the south of the road, make sure to check out some of the other rock formations in the area!

Wilson State Park

Wilson Lake Cliffs
Wilson Lake CliffsPrints Available
Cliffs above Wilson Lake

Wilson State Park is one of my favorites in all of Kansas! Wilson Lake is known for it’s amazing clear, blue waters! In fact, it’s known to be the clearest lake in Kansas! A plethora of activities await here, from boating and kayaking, to mountain biking and hiking. The cliffs that jut inward along the rim of the lake make for great kayaking, while the trail above these same cliffs belongs to the Switchgrass Mountain Bike Trail.

Cedar Bluff State Park

To the west of Wilson State Park lies Cedar Bluff State Park. Cedar Bluff State Park is the main attraction of the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway. The most interesting feature about the reservoir is the giant 100 foot bluffs that line parts of the south side of the lake.

Lake Scott State Park

Battle Canyon Monument Milky Way
Battle Canyon Monument Milky WayPrints Available
The Milky Way, a meteor and a thunderstorm light the sky above the Battle Canyon monument

Our final stop is Lake Scott State Park, along the Western Vistas Historic Byway. You’ll want to leave a lot of time to work with at Lake Scott, as there’s plenty to do! Lake Scott is located inside of a canyon. Surrounding the lake are the walls of the canyon, with spring waters from springs like the Big Spring feeding into the lake. While the beauty of the lake is stunning, it’s history is equally amazing! Within the park’s boundaries is the only known pueblo in Kansas, El Quartelejo. It was built by Native American’s who entered the region after fleeing Spanish rule in New Mexico in the 1600’s. To the south of Lake Scott is the beautiful Battle Canyon. At first glance, Battle Canyon appears to be a scenic canyon that cuts through the prairie. Digging deeper into the history of the region presents even more though. Battle Canyon was the site of the last Native American battle in Kansas. Today, a monument stands at the spot where many of the Northern Cheyenne women and children hid during the battle. When visited Lake Scott, make sure to visit all of these areas, as they are truly remarkable! If you have a little time, the hiking trails make a great way to finish off the day. Feel free to stay and camp as well. Lake Scott has some wonderful camping grounds to spend the night at!

Optional side trips: Many of the best side trips are located near Lake Scott. The absolute must are the giant 70 foot tall chalk pyramids called Monument Rocks! In addition, just to the north of the lake lies the Little Pyramids and the badlands of Little Jerusalem. Castle Rock can also be found between Cedar Bluff State Park and Lake Scott State Park.

Posted under: Kansas

South Central Kansas Waterfall Road Trip

Posted on September 9, 2016 by Mickey

With all of the recent rain, I thought a nice South Central Kansas waterfall road trip would be just the trick for a great weekend adventure! I’ve picked some of my favorite waterfalls as part of a circular trip that starts and ends in Wichita. Check them out below!

Direct link to the map

The Keeper of the Plains Falls

Wichita, Kansas

Keeper of the Plains Fiery Sunset
Keeper of the Plains Fiery SunsetPrints Available
A fiery sunset explodes behind the Keeper of the Plains and it’s waterfall

While the main attraction in downtown Wichita is undoubtedly the iconic Keeper of the Plains, the waterfall that sits below it as the Little Arkansas River meets the Arkansas River is impressive in it’s own right! I’ve made this the first stop, as the Keeper of the Plains is a wonderful place to enjoy the sunrise.

Bonus: Just upstream from the Keeper of the Plains from lies another waterfall that dams up the Little Arkansas River before it reaches the statue.

Optional: A few miles downstream from the Keeper of the Plains is the relatively new Lincoln Street Bridge falls. They are quite impressive, as you can see below.

Lincoln Street Bridge Falls
Lincoln Street Bridge FallsPrints Available
The waterfall at Lincoln Street Bridge in Wichita

Optional #2: Slate Creek Dam Falls is located in Wellington. It’s one of the more beautiful man-made waterfalls in all of Kansas! If you have a few extra minutes on your waterfall road trip, it’s a worthy stop!

Slate Creek Dam Falls
Slate Creek Dam FallsPrints Available
The waterfall at Slate Creek Dam in Wellington

Drury Dam Falls

Near Caldwell, Kansas

Flooded Drury Dam Falls
Flooded Drury Dam FallsPrints Available
Flood waters spill over the waterfall at Drury Dam

After getting your fill of the Keeper of the Plains (and possible side excursions), head south to Caldwell and the Drury Dam Falls. Drury has a pretty amazing history as a tourism locations. The spot I shot this photo at was once a large hotel where people all over Kansas and Oklahoma would visit. A massive flood in the 1900s swept the hotel away. By the 1950s, a fire destroyed the mill across the bank. All that remains is the ruins of the mill and the waterfall you see here.

Cowley Falls

Cowley State Fishing Lake, Kansas

Cowley Falls
Cowley FallsPrints Available
Cowley Falls in the spillway of Cowley State Fishing Lake

Cowley Falls are some of the biggest and most famous of waterfalls in Kansas. Dropping 25-30 feet in the spillway of Cowley State Fishing Lake makes for a sight to behold when rains run heavy. The sight you see above is what happens in the spring after heavy rainfall! Even in other seasons, a good rain can get the falls flowing a bit. Once you’ve had your fill of Cowley Falls, it’s time to head east towards the Chautauqua Hills and more awesome waterfalls!

Optional: Osro Falls is just a little further to east of Cowley Falls and somewhat on the way to our next stop. Located along the Caney River, Osro Falls can be a bit difficult to get to after lots of rain. You have to trek it across a farmer’s field on an unimproved road to get to the low water crossing waterfall.

Osro Falls
Osro FallsPrints Available
Osro Falls along the Caney River

Butcher Falls

Near Sedan, Kansas

Spring at Butcher Falls
Spring at Butcher FallsPrints Available
Spring rains spill over Butcher Falls

Arriving east into the Chautauqua Hills, we come upon the Red Buffalo Ranch, near Sedan, Kansas. One of the highlights of the ranch is Butcher Falls, which is a large punchbowl waterfall. Various cascades begin the drop to the main waterfall before plunging 20 feet into the pool below. It makes for a great swimming spot and is almost always flowing year-round!

Optional (but absolutely worth it!): One of my favorite waterfalls in Kansas is Chautauqua Falls. Located at the Old Sedan Lake’s spillway, Chautauqua Falls makes a drop of at least two levels. Both drops are impressive in their own right. The first drops 10-20 feet depending on which side of the falls you’re viewing from (there are multiple parts of the waterfall here, splitting off before coming back together). The second is a much shorter five or so feet, but very beautiful.

Surging Chautauqua Falls
Surging Chautauqua FallsPrints Available
Chautauqua Falls flows with spring rainfall
Lower Chautauqua Falls
Lower Chautauqua FallsPrints Available
Lower Chautauqua Falls drops from it’s ledge into the pool below

Elk Falls

Elk Falls, Kansas

Elk Falls
Elk FallsPrints Available
Spring starts to show it’s colors at Elk Falls in southeast Kansas.

After visiting Butcher Falls (and Chautauqua Falls if you took the optional side trip), your next stop should be Elk Falls, in the town of the same name. Elk Falls is a popular swimming and fishing hole. The drop of 5-10 feet into a large pool makes a great summer swimming spot. Lots of fisherman also make use of the area. It’s a great stop as you make your way back north and west towards Wichita and our final waterfalls on this road trip.

Butler Falls

Near Latham, Kansas

Butler Falls
Butler FallsPrints Available
Butler Falls swollen with rain

On the southwest side of Butler State Fishing Lake is a spillway waterfall named Butler Falls. The main drops are showcased in the above picture. if you hike downstream, various cascades also make for interesting scenery. It can be rough terrain, especially in high waters, but totally worth it!

Santa Fe Lake Falls

Augusta, Kansas

Santa Fe Lake Falls
Santa Fe Lake FallsPrints Available
The waterfall in the spillway of Santa Fe Lake Falls

Our final stop is Santa Fe Lake Falls. Santa Fe Lake itself is a hidden gem in south central Kansas completely worth a stop in it’s own right. The lake has great swimming, hiking, camping, boating and fishing. But we’re here for the waterfall! I’ve been here in multiple seasons, and have never seen it dry (not that it can’t run dry). After a good rain, it can be absolutely ferocious! The drop is maybe 15 feet high, but quite wide. Park next to the dam on the east side of the lake to find it and walk along the dam. If water is flowing at all, you’ll hear it before you see it!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this south central Kansas waterfall road trip!

Posted under: Kansas

Lakes and Rocks Kansas Road Trip

Posted on September 1, 2016 by Mickey

Considering it’s the last holiday weekend of the summer, most people in Kansas usually head to the lake! Well, I’ve got a road trip that takes you to not just one lake, but four! Add in four Kansas byways, lots of awesome rock formations and even a nice waterfall, and you’ve got yourself a classic Kansas road trip!

Direct link to the map

Lindsborg and Coronado Heights

Stormy Coronado Heights Panorama
Stormy Coronado Heights PanoramaPrints Available
Storm clouds roll in above Coronado Heights

A great starting place for this awesome trip is in the Lindsborg area! A sunrise from Coronado Heights is a real treat, as you can see for miles from the top of the hill.

Kanopolis Lake State Park

Kanopolis Falls
Kanopolis FallsPrints Available
Waterfall in the spillway of Kanopolis Lake

Once you’ve drunk in your fill of scenic views from Coronado Heights (and explored the castle), jump on the Prairie Trail Scenic Byway and head west to Kanopolis State Park. With more than 30 miles of trails, Kanopolis State Park would be a great place to stop and take a hike! Make sure to visit Kanopolis Falls while there!

Mushroom Rock State Park

Mushroom Rock Milky Way
Mushroom Rock Milky WayPrints Available
The Milky Way rises above Mushroom Rock

Just a few miles north of Kanopolis Lake is another great Kansas state park! Mushroom Rock State Park offers really interesting geological rock formations, including the famed “Mushroom Rock” itself (pictured above). It’s a wonderful place to just explore the interesting geological formations.

Wilson Lake State Park

Wilson Lake Cliffs
Wilson Lake CliffsPrints Available
Cliffs along the edge of Wilson Lake at dusk

The best way to get from Mushroom Rock State Park is along two of our scenic byways of Kansas! You’re already on the Prairie Trail Scenic Byway, but when you head north for Wilson Lake State Park from I-70, you’ll get the chance to travel in post rock country along the Post Rock Scenic Byway. Post rock country is an interesting area of Kansas where many of the fenceposts were created out of the local stone in the late 1800s as crop farming took hold in the area. Watch for these fence posts as you drive up to Wilson Lake. Wilson Lake has the claim of being the clearest water in any lake in Kansas! And it really is quite clear for a Kansas lake! It even has a shade of turquoise in it’s colors that really shine in the right light!

There’s typically something for everyone at Wilson Lake! For mountain bikers, Wilson Lake offers the epic Switchgrass Mountain Bike Trail. And for hikers, the Rock Town trail is a perfect 3 mile round trip hike to more interesting rock formations along the shores of Wilson Lake.

Cedar Bluff State Park

From one scenic byway and lake to another scenic byway and lake, the next leg of this lake and rock Kansas road trip takes you from Wilson Lake to Cedar Bluff State Park along the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway. Watersports, fishing and camping are great past-times at Cedar Bluff, but the views from the south side of the lake are probably it’s best feature! Aptly named Cedar Bluff for a reason, the cliffs on the south side of the lake rise 100 feet into the air for an amazing view!

Castle Rock

From Cedar Bluff State Park, head west along the backroads to reach Castle Rock. This place is worth a little exploring! While Castle Rock itself is a cool landmark, the badlands to the south of it might be just as interesting. Lots of rock formations and interesting rock shapes make for a great hour or so of exploring before heading on to Monument Rocks.

Monument Rocks

Monument Rocks Sunset
Monument Rocks SunsetPrints Available
Sunset over Monument Rocks in western Kansas

It’s like this road trip keeps getting better and better! One of the crown jewels of Kansas landmarks is the famed Monument Rocks. Climbing to ask high as 70 feet tall, these massive chalk monoliths soar into the sky. Coming from the relatively flat prairie surrounding them, they are a remarkable sight from both distance and up close! One of the more interesting features is the archway through one of the formations. Spend some time here! It’s a beautiful area!

Lake Scott State Park

A great way to finish this classic Kansas road trip is by staying at Lake Scott State Park. From Monument Rocks, you’ll drive a small portion of the Western Vistas Historic Byway before turning west to Lake Scott. Surrounded by canyons, this spring-fed lake is a real beauty! Camping is top-notch, as is the fishing! There are a number of hiking trails worth checking out. And history buffs will love this area! Battle Canyon was the site of the last major Native American battle fought in Kansas. And along the lake shore itself lies Kansas’ only pueblo, El Cuartelejo, built in the late 1600’s.

Posted under: Kansas

Northeast Kansas Waterfall Road Trip

Posted on August 28, 2016 by Mickey

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.

Direct link to the map

Turkey Falls

Merriam, Kansas

Turkey Falls
Turkey FallsPrints Available
Cascades below Turkey Falls in Merriam, 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.

Angel Falls

Lansing, Kansas

Angel Falls
Angel FallsPrints Available
Angel Falls spans Sevenmile Creek with a drop of 5 feet or so

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

Walnut Creek Falls
Walnut Creek FallsPrints Available
A cascading waterfall along Walnut Creek

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

Wakarusa River Falls
Wakarusa River FallsPrints Available
A small waterfall downstream of the spillway of Clinton Lake

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.

Swissvale Falls

Southeast of Topeka, Kansas

Swissvale Falls
Swissvale FallsPrints Available
A beautiful natural waterfall along the Landon Nature Trail

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

Olathe, Kansas

Cedar Lake Falls
Cedar Lake FallsPrints Available
A beautiful waterfall in the spillway at Cedar Lake

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

Olathe, Kansas

Cedar Creek Falls
Cedar Creek FallsPrints Available
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!

Posted under: Kansas

Sunflower Fields In Kansas

Posted on August 25, 2016 by Mickey

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):

Grinter Farms

24050 Levee 27, Lawrence, KS 66044 – Google Map

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!

Sunburst Sunflowers
Sunburst SunflowersPrints Available
The sun creates a burst of light across sunflowers

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.

Pilsen Sunflower Sunset
Pilsen Sunflower SunsetPrints Available
A beautiful sunset lights up behind a sunflower field near Pilsen, Kansas

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!

Sunflower Sunset
Sunflower SunsetPrints Available
Sunflower Sunset

Northeast of Lindsborg

Intersection of I-35 and Highway 4. – Google Map

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!

Sunflower Sunset
Lindsborg Sunflowers
Sunflower field near Lindsborg, Kansas

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!

Posted under: Kansas

The Kansas Waterfall Road Trip

Posted on August 15, 2016 by Mickey

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.

Direct link to the map

Sante Fe Lake Falls to Prather Creek Falls

Santa Fe lake Falls Sunset
Santa Fe lake Falls SunsetPrints Available
A sunset lights up above Santa Fe Lake Falls

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
Prather Creek FallsPrints Available
Late spring brings beautiful color to the waterfall at Chase State Fishing Lake

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
Geary FallsPrints Available
Geary Falls in the fog

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

Pillsbury Crossing
Pillsbury CrossingPrints Available
The beautiful waterfall at Pillsbury Crossing

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.

Optional side trip: Both Alma Falls and Swissvale Falls and not too far off to I-70 on your way east to Angel Falls.

Angel Falls to Bourbon Falls

Angel Falls
Angel FallsPrints Available
Angel Falls in northeast Kansas

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

Spring at Bourbon Falls
Spring at Bourbon FallsPrints Available
Spring at Bourbon 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.

Optional: If there has been enough rain, Woodruff Falls makes a great adventure. Fredonia’s Otto’s Mill Falls and Altoona’s Altoona’s Falls are two other optional stops along the way to see some historical sites and waterfalls.

Elk Falls to Butcher Falls

Elk Falls
Elk FallsPrints Available
Elk Falls along the Elk River

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

Spring at Butcher Falls
Spring at Butcher FallsPrints Available
Butcher Falls in the spring

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.

Cowley Falls Deluge
Cowley Falls DelugePrints Available
Heavy rain at Cowley Falls

Let me know on the Kansas is Beautiful Facebook page if you take this road trip! I’d love to hear if you enjoyed these waterfalls as much as I do!

Posted under: Kansas

A Guide to Viewing Dark Skies in Kansas

Posted on August 8, 2016 by Mickey

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.

Light Pollution

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 Winter Milky Way
Teter Rock Winter Milky WayPrints Available
The Milky Way stands tall at Teter Rock

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.

Kansas Aurora Borealis Milky Way Panorama
Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse Milky WayPrints Available
The Milky Way rises above the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

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.

Flint Hills Meteor Milky Way
Flint Hills Meteor Milky WayPrints Available
An Eta Aquarid’s meteor streaks in front of the Milky Way along Skyline Drive

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!

Cowley Falls Milky Way
Cowley Falls Milky WayPrints Available
The Milky Way shines bright above the waterfall at Cowley State Fishing Lake

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.

Kansas Aurora Borealis Milky Way Panorama
Kansas Aurora Borealis Milky Way PanoramaPrints Available
A Milky Way Panorama with a hint of the Aurora at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge

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!

The Northern Lights in Kansas
The Northern Lights in KansasPrints Available
On a rare occasion the Northern Lights even come to visit us in Kansas
Quivira Milky Way Reflection
Quivira Milky Way ReflectionPrints Available
The Milky Way reflects into a pond at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge

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.

Prairie Trail Milky Way
Prairie Trail Milky WayPrints Available
This photo is the winner of the June KLM Monthly Photo Contest

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.

Mushroom Rock Milky Way
Mushroom Rock Milky WayPrints Available
The Milky Way spans out above Mushroom Rock State Park

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!

Monument Rocks Milky Way
Monument Rocks Milky WayPrints Available
A huge panorama of the Milky Way at Monument Rocks

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!

Windmill Milky Way
Windmill Milky WayPrints Available
A windmill is silhouetted by the beautiful Milky Way

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!

Monument Rocks Star Trails
Monument Rocks Star TrailsPrints Available
Star trails at Monument Rocks in western Kansas

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.

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