Arikaree Breaks Wildlife Drive

Arikaree Breaks
Arikaree Breaks - all photos by Steve Sorensen

This scenic drive through the far northwestern corner of Kansas takes travelers into the unique "badlands" near the Arikaree River and gives them a view of the eroded breaks.  The scenic road (which may not be passable if muddy) travels up and over the rock formation locally known as Devil's Cap.
Only 3 miles of the Arikaree River are within the state's borders.   The river runs from Colorado, across the extreme corner of Kansas, and into Nebraska.  Here the shortgrass prairie is dotted with yucca and prickly pear cactus.   Tracks of mule deer and coyote are frequently seen in the sand along the roads.   Lesser earless lizards are also common in these sandy areas.

Arikaree upland habitat
Upland habitat along the Arikaree

The most common birds are horned larks, vesper sparrows, western meadowlarks, mourning doves, and American kestrels.  Rock wrens are found along the rocky outcroppings of Devil's Cap.  Small mammals found in the area include thirteen-lined ground squirrels and Ord's kangaroo rats.  Watch for their diggings along the roadways, and watch for badgers hunting for them.  A black-tailed prairie dog town, complete with a few burrowing owls, can also be seen along the drive.  The owls usually stand at the burrow entrances or perch on fence posts.

bulletNo facilities.

Camping icon No campgrounds.

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Trail icon There are no developed trails, but hiking along these
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Arikaree Drive map

Location in Kansas

 

Directions: From St. Francis (35 miles north of Goodland) go 2 miles west to the intersection of K-27.   Travel north 17.5 miles on K-27 to an intersection (red arrow) that is 4 miles south of the Nebraska border and 1.2 miles north of the Williams Natural Gas pump station.  From this intersection go 2 miles west and turn north.  A 16-mile loop drive begins from this intersection.  Travel north 1.2 miles to the prairie dog town (which is on private property, so view it from the road).  Continue north, turning left at every road intersection.  The most scenic breaks are about 2.5 miles past the Arikaree River valley.
bulletAn interesting side trip starts along a county road next to the Republican River just west of St. Francis.  Turn south then travel southwest for about six miles to the river bridge.  A four-mile drive north returns to US-36.  Alternately, travel west at this point and take only left turns and there is an eleven-mile loop drive in riparian habitat with groves of large cottonwood trees along the way.  Watch for deer and turkeys along this route.
bulletAnother side trip goes north from St. Francis, and may be downloaded in pdf format here.

Ownership: Private

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Questions or comments about Natural Kansas may be directed to Jim Mason