All group tours are cancelled through at least April 15. The park remains open for use of the hiking trails and law enforcement will continue to patrol.
These badlands are Kansas’ most dramatic Niobrara chalk formation. They provide unique and important habitat for many plants and wildlife. Native amphibians, reptiles and birds such as ferruginous hawks and cliff swallows live here. Little Jerusalem is also home to the largest population of Great Plains wild buckwheat. This native plant is found in the chalk bluffs prairie of western Kansas and nowhere else in the world.
Long ago, this area was a great sea. In addition to the present-day wildlife, the remains of swimming and flying reptiles dating back 85 million years have been found here. Ancient giant clams and oysters are common fossils in these badlands.
The chalk outcroppings have had many names. In the late 19th century, they were said to resemble the ruins of many castles, thus “Castle City.” Some say that it got the name “Little Jerusalem” or “New Jerusalem” because from a distance it looks like the ancient walled city of Jerusalem. By the time The Nature Conservancy acquired the property, most modern-day locals and geologists knew it by the name of Little Jerusalem.
This park was also once part of the McGuire Ranch. After five generations of family ownership, it is now a park the public can hike and enjoy. Explore the trails to view the rock formations, some of which tower more than 100 feet above the nearby Smoky Hill River. From varying points along the marked trails, and in different light, you’ll find the rocks appear dramatically different.