Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park finally has an opening date.
On Saturday, Oct. 12, Kansas’ newest state park will be open to the public. It’s located in southern Logan County near the Smoky River Valley in western Kansas, about four hours west of Wichita between Scott City and Oakley.
Kansas dropped a $50 fee last month that the parks department wanted to charge visitors for tours. The fee was meant to be a deterrent to people that might damage the fragile rock formations at the park. Tours will now be free, but visitors will have to schedule them in advance at nature.org/littlejerusalem.
Free, guided tours start Oct. 12 and and run every hour starting at 11:30 a.m. Visitors will be required to buy a $5 state park vehicle permit at the park or have an annual Kansas state parks vehicle pass.
The park is a rare geological jewel that features chalky spires and buttes jutting as high as 100 feet in the air. It is home to the largest Niobrara chalk formation in Kansas. It has fossils, giant chalk formations that rise, fall and swirl into towers and caves. It’s a fragile environment that dates back 85 million years, when much of Kansas was covered by a giant sea.
The 332-acre area of land is owned by the Nature Conservancy, a global conservation organization, and the park is managed by the state. Two permanent trails have been installed that will be available to the public year-round from sunrise to sunset year-round. No reservation is required to hike those trails, according to a news release from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
Even though the state dropped its fee for tours, park officials are still emphasizing the need to protect the rocks and habitat.
“The Nature Conservancy’s chief purposes for Little Jerusalem are, first, to protect the pristine natural features and, second, to provide opportunities for people to enjoy the natural beauty of the area,” Nature Conservancy director Rob Manes said in the release.
“Striking that balance took time and we are confident that the partnership between The Nature Conservancy and KDWPT provides the public with the best possible experience. We can’t wait to share Little Jerusalem with everyone next month.”
A grand opening ceremony is schedule to start at 10 a.m. the day of the opening, with speakers and a ribbon cutting ceremony. The public trails open after that. Free snacks and water will be available, the release says.
“From the start, we’ve envisioned this property as a special kind of park, where natural resource conservation is the highest priority,” said Linda Lanterman, director of Kansas’ state parks division, in the release.
“That means that public interaction with the landscape will necessarily be limited to only activities that have the least impact. We’ve struck a great balance with the trails that allows visitors to experience a diversity of views,” she said.