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Kansas History & Web Sites

Kansas has been characterized as a featureless plain, but its topography, while rarely spectacular, is varied. The land rises slowly but steadily from 700 feet (213 metres) above sea level in the southeast to 4,039 feet (1,231 metres) near the Colorado border.

About Kansas

The far western section consists of high plains with few natural trees and appears flat and endless. Actually these plains are creased with shallow gullies, called draws, the product of millennia of erosion. Here are some of the state's most striking geologic formations. Castle Rock, south of Quinter, consists of chalk spires rising high above the level plains. Monument Rocks, a few miles to the west, resemble sphinxes. Near Jetmore is Horse Thief Canyon, a miniature of the Grand Canyon.

The earliest evidence of human occupation is found in the area of the Republican and Blue rivers where there had been a thriving agricultural society from about 1200 to 1500. At the time of initial European contact the main Indian groups were the Kansa, Osage, Pawnee, and Wichita.

The first-known European explorer was Francisco Coronado, who in 1541 led a party northward from Mexico in search of gold. La Salle claimed the region for France in 1682, and French fur traders had a flourishing exchange with the Indians in what is now the northeastern part of the state in the 18th century. Kansas was acquired by the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803. Until the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 created the Kansas Territory and opened it to white settlement, Kansas had been the trailhead for the Sante Fe and Oregon Trails and a dumping point used by the federal government for displaced eastern Indians. In the decade before the American Civil War, conflicts over whether to allow slavery in the territory earned it the sobriquet "Bleeding Kansas." Kansas entered the Union as a free state in 1861.

Early settlement of Kansas was primarily by homesteaders who were antislavery New Englanders or European immigrants. About 90 percent of the land is used for agriculture, and one-third of the population lives in areas classified as rural. Wichita, Kansas City, and Topeka are the only cities with populations of more than 100,000.
Source: 1996 Encyclopaedia Britannica

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