A mini vacation to Logan, Gove and Scott counties is worth the effort

Brandon Case
Pratt Tribune
Rock formations at Little Jerusalem State Park as sunset approaches and after sunset.

If you and yours enjoy spending time outdoors; appreciate history; like to dabble in fossils and rock formations; and perhaps enjoy a little art and music, here are six places you can roll into a memorable Kansas mini vacation: Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park off the trail tour, Monument Rocks, Keystone Gallery, Rustic Lucky Cabin, Historic Scott State Park and Battle of Punished Woman’s Fork.

The best part is that all are within less than an hour of each other. My wife and I traveled to the area for our anniversary in early June.

Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park is the newest entry into the Kansas state park system and features unique Niobrara Chalk formations sculpted by wind and water erosion. While the property is owned by the Nature Conservancy, the state manages it. If you really want to get the full experience of Little Jerusalem, call ahead to see when off the trail tours are scheduled (620-872-2061). You won’t be disappointed. On our trip, we enjoyed an off-the-trail hike with Sara Kay Carrell, the park’s naturalist and sole tour guide. Her extensive knowledge of the area’s flora, fauna, birds, lizards, snakes and other critters makes the trek highly interesting and informative, and you might even have an opportunity to sample an edible plant or two.

Rock formations at Little Jerusalem SP with Prince’s Plume in the foreground. The wildflower is found in only a few counties in Kansas, including Logan.

A little further south and east of Little Jerusalem and also down a dirt road you will find Monument Rocks. This unique chalk rock formation is on private land, but the owner graciously allows visitors to experience it. Monument Rocks is the first such formation in Kansas designated as a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Like Little Jerusalem Badlands SP, it is open from sunup to sundown.

Rock formations at Little Jerusalem State Park with Prince’s Plume in the foreground. The wildflower is found in only a few counties in Kansas, including Logan.

After visiting Monument Rocks, head toward Highway 83 on Dakota Road, and you’ll end up directly across from the Keystone Gallery. The gallery, which advertises itself as “conveniently located in the middle of nowhere,” has a gift shop as well as a mini museum featuring fossils unearthed in the area, primarily. Gallery owners Chuck Bonner and Barbara Shelton describe themselves as field paleontologists. The walls of the gallery feature artwork by Chuck and a few other artists. It’s a fascinating place to visit. If you opt to stay in the area, you can rent a rustic cabin at the gallery. The Lucky Cabin (so named because it was saved from a major fire in the late 1990s) is located on a hill just outside of Historic Scott State Park. The cabin doesn’t have running water, but it is stocked with jugs of water, electricity, three beds, a kitchen with stove and refrigerator … and great views. In the summer, Keystone Gallery is generally open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. but you should call (620-872-2762) to make sure the couple will be there, as they might be out fossil hunting or running errands.

Historic Scott State Park is just that: full of interesting archaeological and historical sites, like the El Quartelejo ruins, the Steele cabin, and, just outside the park, the site of the Battle of Punished Woman’s Fork. There is a great, two-page description of the battle at the visitor’s kiosk. The battle is considered to be the last one between soldiers and Native Americans in Kansas. Best of all you can roam around on the land where history happened.

Rock formations at Little Jerusalem as sunset approaches and after sunset.

Scott SP has miles and miles of hiking/biking/horseback riding trails, as well as a lake where you can boat, canoe or swim, depending upon your preference. Tent camping spots are available, although many summer visitors seem to prefer modern camping in an RV or similar air-conditioned vehicle.

All in all, a weekend or weekday mini vacation within this tri-county region of Logan, Gove, and Scott will help you to relax, recharge and be ready for whatever challenges await you back at the ranch (home or workplace).