The state of Kansas is located in the Midwest. Topeka is its capital, and Wichita is its largest city. Kansas is bordered by Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Colorado to the North, east, south, and west.
QUICK FACTS ABOUT KANSAS
- Capital City: Topeka
- Largest City: Wichita
- Nickname: The Sunflower State
- Statehood: January 29, 1861; 34th state
- Population (as of 2020): 2,940,865
- Abbreviation: KS
- State bird: western meadowlark
- State flower: sunflower
- Total Size Of The State: 82,278 sq mi (213,100 km2)
What is now Kansas was settled at least 12,200 years ago. Scientists have found mammoth bones and other animals with human tool marks, a sign that humans hunted the creatures.
Many Native American tribes lived on the land for thousands of years, including the Kansa, Osage, Pawnee, Kiowa, and Comanche.
In 1541, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, an explorer from Spain, came to the area in search of cities made of gold rumored to exist. France first claimed the area in 1800, following the arrival of French explorers and fur traders in the 1700s. When the United States bought this land from France in 1803, it became a U.S. territory. The “Louisiana Purchase” was the name of this transaction.
Tensions arose in 1854 with the Kansas-Nebraska Act, allowing Kansas and Nebraska territory residents to vote on slavery. Kansas became a state in 1861, the same year the Civil War began.
Why Does It Have That Name?
Kansa is a Native American tribe named after the “People of the South Wind.”
Kansans today refer to themselves as Jayhawkers. During the Civil War, the term referred to Kansan bands of robbers. After the war started, many Jayhawkers enlisted to fight for the Union and to end slavery in the North.
Sunflower fields adorn Kansas, earning it the nickname “the Sunflower State.” Oil and seeds are produced from these flowers.
Geographic Features and Landforms
Nebraska borders Kansas to the North, Missouri to the east, Oklahoma to the south, and Colorado to the west. Plains abound in the state, but it isn’t all flatlands.
In the northeast are gentle hills with pastures and forests. The area is known as the Dissected Till Plains. More than 400,000 years ago, glaciers and wind cut the land into hills and valleys.
In the south are the Southeastern Plains. The Osage Plains, composed of eroded shale and limestone, and the Flint Hills, have ridges made of flint that does not erode (or break down) like other rocks and soils.
As you head west toward the Rocky Mountains, Kansas’ western half is covered by the Great Plains. Mount Sunflower is the state’s highest point near the Colorado border.
The Natural World
Kansas is home to the nine-banded armadillo, black-tailed jackrabbit, plains pocket gopher, and least shrew. Snakes such as prairie kings, western worm snakes, prairie lizards, and Great Plains skinks are part of the reptile family. In addition, birds such as black vultures, golden eagles, yellow-billed cuckoos, prairie chickens, and western meadowlarks live in the state.
Trees such as cedar, maple, oak, and walnut grow in the northeast part of the state. The cottonwood tree dominates the entire state. However, Kansas is covered by a lot of grass: in the west grows buffalo grass; in the Southeastern Plains grows bluestem grass, switch grass, and Indian grass; in the Great Plains grows bluegrass. Prairie phlox, verbena, and prickly poppies are some of the most common wildflowers.
The state’s fertile farmland is one of its most valuable natural resources. As a result, Kansas produces the most wheat in the nation. Often called the Wheat Capital of the World, Sumner County, Kansas, has abundant grain.
Some Fun Facts About Kansas
- The state has produced many famous Kansans, including pilot Amelia Earhart, environmental activist Erin Brockovich, and saxophonist Charlie.
- Parker, and actress Vivian Vance, who played Ethel on I Love Lucy.
- Explore Strataca, Kansas’ underground salt museum, 650 feet below the earth’s surface. The salt was formed 275 million years ago in a working salt mine.
- Visit Old Cowtown Museum, a “town” of about 40 historic buildings furnished to look as they did in the 1860s and 1870s! Visitors can explore several historic buildings, including a general store, a jail, and a schoolhouse.