Echo Cliff Park, A Kansas Gem
Rappel Kansas? Nah, Kansas is flat as a pancake, right? Wrong.
Off the interstate highways, tucked away in rural and urban areas are amazing geological features that give a clue to the state’s past and give visitors places to climb, hike, or sit and relax. One of my favorite such places is Echo Cliff Park, located in Wabaunsee County, west of the capitol city of Topeka.
Echo Cliff is an amazing site, first named in 1895 by a local man, Fred Winter. In the 1920’s, Charles Winter cleaned up the grove to make a picnic and camping spot for the public. Eventually, the area was deeded to the Echo Cliff Park Trust.
A friend of mine from Arkansas, who now lives in Eskridge, Kansas, west of Echo Cliff, first told me about the park. He said he likes to go creek walking there and the rock outcroppings remind him of his mountainous home state. So I took my black Lab Molly and we went to see for ourselves.
What I saw was a huge rock cliff that had been carved out by scenic Mission Creek. The cliffs are white sandstone striated with gray shale and red oxides. According to one historical account, the nearby town of Dover was so named because English immigrants to the area found Echo Cliff reminded them of their home cliffs of Dover.
The park is a lovely grassy swatch shaded by huge oak and sycamore trees. In the summer, Echo Cliff is a retreat from the hot Kansas weather. It’s always 10 degrees cooler at Echo Cliff, and a walk in shallow, cold water creek is soothing to the feet and soul.
There are several paths to the creek, probably not accessible by wheelchair, but with my terrible, painful knees I can make the descent down and ascent back up. Rock climbers challenge their skills on the cliffs. Archeologists have found evidence of ancient Indian villages along the creek. It would not be unusual to find a fossil in the sandstone or shale. There is a hiking trail that takes up to the top of the cliff face if you aren’t acrophobic and enjoy the view from above. Camping isn’t allowed, but there are picnic benches and parking spots for day use.
To get to this little gem of a spot, take Kansas 4 highway west of Topeka through Dover. A mile west of Dover you will see Echo Cliff Road. Go left, south for a mile and there you are. You can’t miss it. Enjoy your visit!
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