One of my esteemed colleagues has opened my eyes to the wonders of the geology of the state of Kansas in recent years. We have traveled together through the state on occasion, and I am consistently amazed at his ability to name the various layers of rock exposed in virtually any road cut we happen to drive by. As a result, I've begun to watch the layers of exposed shale, limestone and other rocks a bit more closely on my solo trips throughout the state, and I've come to appreciate Kansas' geological variety and history that are usually hidden just beneath our feet.
For this reason, I really enjoyed a recent visit to the Kansas Geological Survey World Wide Web page at http://www.kgs.ukans.edu/. Although I had visited this site some time ago, I hadn't been there for a while and happened to stumble on it again this week, oddly enough, as I was looking at Gov. Bill Graves' page (located at http://www.ink.org/public/governor/, if you're curious). The governor has a link in his page to one of the neatest features of the Kansas Geological Survey pages -- the interactive Kansas map (located at http://gisdasc.kgs.ukans.edu/dasc/inter-map.html).
The KGS Interactive Kansas Map is simply a map of the state, with every county outlined and labeled. To get information about any county, you just click on it, and then choose from four types of information: transportation, incorporated areas, hydrology and 1990 Census demographic data. The transportation layer data item shows you a map of the county, with every street and road indicated with black lines. The incorporated areas map highlights the incorporated cities and towns in the county. The hydrology map shows the lakes, rivers and streams in the county. The census data, though somewhat dated now that we're in mid-decade, is still an interesting demographic picture of the state, county by county.
There is much more in the KGS page than this interactive map. You'll find information about how to get topographical and other kinds of maps and various other KGS publications; online maps with information about Kansas oil and gas wells and deposits; and maps of Kansas water resources, such as the Dakota Aquifer that stretches across the western portion of the state.
Among the really interesting and useful things I found on my recent visit was the online trip through Kansas geological history, titled "From Sea to Prairie." This set of Web pages takes you through time to let you watch the events that formed the geological structures underfoot in our fair state, and it is illustrated with photographs taken in each of the major geological regions in the state. If you have any interest in this stuff at all, this site is well worth taking some time to browse.
Another of the cool features of the KGS Web page is the Physiographic Map of Kansas (http://www.kgs.ukans.edu/Physio/physio.html), another interactive Kansas map that highlights each of the major physical geology areas of the state. For example, you can click on the Smoky Hills area of the map and see photographs of terrain in the north-central part of the state, with text that explains why that part of the state ended up looking the way it does.
There is also a shaded relief map of the state (http://gisdasc.kgs.ukans.edu/dasc/ksdem.html) that looks like a black-and-white satellite photograph of the landscape, showing the hills and valleys, the high plains and the waterways.
There is also the Generalized Geologic Map of Kansas (http://www.kgs.ukans.edu/General/geoMapCard.gif), a color map that shows what layers of rock are exposed in various areas of the state, with a cross-section indicating what layers are exposed as you travel across Kansas on Interstate 70.
Some of the maps displayed in the KGS Web pages are available on paper at no cost, and there are many other maps and publications that are offered for sale -- an online catalog lists them.
This site is an example of the Web at its best; go take a look.
-- Doug Heacock is director of the Kansas Research and Educational Network at Kansas University. You may address questions to him in care of the Lawrence Journal-World, 609 N.H., Lawrence 66044, or e-mail him at heacock