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Mount Sunflower — High Point of Kansas

Fast Facts About Mount Sunflower

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Mount Sunflower — High Point of Kansas

The summit sculpture on Mount Sunflower in western Kansas commemorates the original Harold homesteaders and the highest point in Kansas.

Photograph © Susan Joy Paul
  • Elevation: 4,039 feet (1,231 meters)
  • Prominence: 19 feet (6 meters)
  • Location: Wallace County, Kansas.
  • Coordinates: 39.02194° N / 102.03722° W
  • First Ascent: First ascent by Native Americans.

Mount Sunflower Fast Facts

Mount Sunflower is the highest point in Kansas and the 28th highest state high point in the United States. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) designated Mount Sunflower as the Kansas high point in 1961.

Locate Half-Mile from Colorado

Mount Sunflower is located just over a half-mile from the Colorado border on the far western edge of Kansas in Wallace County. The high point is 3,300 feet (1,010 meters) higher than the lowest point in Kansas near Coffeyville in its southeastern corner.

Mount Sunflower is Not a Mountain!

Mount Sunflower is not an actual mountain but merely a low humped hill on the sloping Great Plains, which gradually rise from east to west. The name Mount Sunflower is a tongue-in-cheek reference to a place that looks exactly the same as everywhere else in the surrounding area. The name Mount Sunflower comes from not only the ubiquitious sunflowers whose graceful yellow and black heads cover the Great Plains but also because Kansas is nicknamed the "Sunflower State."

High Point on Historic Harold Ranch

Mount Sunflower lies on the historic Harold Family Ranch, which was originally settled by Edward and Elizabeth Harold in 1905. The site continues to be privately owned, now managed by Mike and Rae Marie (Harold) Jones, who took it over from Ed and Cindy Harold, grandson of the original pioneers. Visitors, however, are welcome to climb to the roof of Kansas.

Commemorative Shrine on Summit

In the late 1970s, Ed Harold built a commemorative shrine to Mount Sunflower and his grandparents, who homestead the ranch in 1905. The best part of the summit is a sculpture of a towering sunflower on a metal frame representing the shape of Kansas with the words "Mount Sunflower," "Highest Point in Kansas," and "4039" created and welded from railroad spikes. There is also a memorial stone that details the original settlers Edward and Elizabeth Harold. Nearby is a picnic area and a register to sign your name in a mailbox.

Summit Markers and Signs Damaged by 2011 Vandals

The markers and signs on Mount Sunflower suffered severe vandalism in November 2011 by unknown low-lifes. "We don't know when for sure, but it was probably the 6th to the 9th of the month," Ed Harold told the Kansas Daily News. "Without cattle up there, I don't get up there every day." Wallace County Sheriff Larry Townsend reported that someone with a flatbed pickup truck damaged the Kansas landmark, including breaking the limestone marker, the register mailbox, and the sunflower sculpture. The vandals backed the truck into the sculpture, pulling it apart. The damage has been repaired but it is disheartening that someone would vandalize private property.

The Prairie Ecosystem and Wildlife

Mount Sunflower offers great views of the surrounding high plains and the area's shortgrass prairie ecosystem. Besides cropland and pastures, the landscape is blanketed with native grasses, including buffalo grass and grama grass. Yuccas, with bulbous cream-colored flowers, stud the fields in early summer, while later wildflowers add a blaze of color after thunderstorms. The area also hosts wildlife, other than herds of cattle, including pronghorn antelope, mule deer, coyotes, prairie dogs, jackrabbits, as well as lizards, bull snakes, and an occasional prairie rattlesnake. Bird watchers will spot plentiful avian species, including a variety of hawks and owls, pheasants, larks, and the meadowlark, which perches on fence posts and trills its thrilling song of the plains.

The High Plains Province

The High Plains geographic province, a subregion of the Great Plains, is a semi-arid region of grassland that stretches from eastern New Mexico and Texas to South Dakota and eastern Wyoming. The High Plains covers the western third of Kansas, a vast landscape of flat prairie broken by gentle hills and broad river valleys. The plains, like those around Mount Sunflower, are composed of sediments carried by water and wind from the Rocky Mountains to the west over the last 50 or so million years.

Ogallala Formation and Aquifer

Below the surface at Mount Sunflower is the Ogallala Formation, a mostly unconsolidated deposit of sand, gravel and clay from the Colorado Rockies. Some material is cemented together into a coarse and porous sandstone, which occasionally forms outcrops along river valleys and creek breaks. The Ogallala lies below the ground surface in western Kansas and holds vast reservoirs of ground water which occasionally surface at places like Scott County State Lake. Otherwise water is pumped out of the Ogallala Aquifer for farmland, cattle, and human consumption.

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