Castle Rock Drive

Castle Rock
Castle Rock - All photos by Jim Mason

This drive of nearly 40 miles will take you south on Castle Rock Road from I-70 at Quinter, east to the Castle Rock outcrop, and back north on Banner Road to 1-70 at Collyer. These roads can be hazardous when muddy, so use good judgment. As you drive over this rolling country you will pass through croplands, fallow fields, and pastures. Several stream channels with riparian vegetation and desolate chalk canyons are on the route.

Watch for pronghorns, mule deer, white-tailed deer, and black-tailed jackrabbits. In summer, survey the canyons and roads for black-billed magpies, rock wrens, mourning doves, loggerhead shrikes, vesper sparrows, and lark sparrows. At night, Ord's kangaroo rats are often seen crossing the roads. Late fall through early spring, horned larks, longspurs, rough-legged hawks, prairie falcons, and northern harriers are frequently observed. Northern shrikes are occasionally sighted. Coyotes, red-tailed hawks, American kestrels, ferruginous hawks, and meadowlarks are seen throughout the year. Some prairie dog towns are found in heavily grazed areas. They are inhabited not only by black-tailed prairie dogs but also by burrowing owls and thirteen-lined ground squirrels.

Hoodoos at Castle Rock

When you cross the cattle grate to enter the Castle Rock area, notice the ungrazed area ahead.   If you drive straight forward, you can park on top of a rocky bluff overlooking the Hackberry Creek Valley.  The bluff is ruggedly carved into formations called hoodoos.  Castle Rock stands about a 1/4 mile away to the north.  It is made of the same rock - Niobrara chalk - as lies underneath your feet. 

The great puzzle of Castle Rock is why it persisted when all the rock between it and the bluff was eroded away.  Erosion never stops, however, and the taller spire of Castle Rock seen in these photos partially collapsed on July 22, 2001 after a thunderstorm.

Backtrack to the last junction and follow the road to the east down off the hill and into the valley. You may either drive to the base of the hoodoos and go exploring or go on to Castle Rock itself.  The flat grassy area is chalk flat prairie, dominated by little bluestem, sideoats grama, and saltgrass.   Many wildflowers bloom from late spring to early fall.  Look for ruts left by Butterfield stagecoaches that passed just north of the rock in 1865.

Castle Rock
Castle Rock viewed from the hoodoos to the south

Lesser earless lizards, ornate box turtles, plains garter snakes, and western hognose snakes are found in the area.  Western rattlesnakes may be present, so look where you step!  Watch for great horned owls that nest in the hoodoo area. Look for sharks' teeth and other fossils among the chalk rocks and gravel. This area was once the bottom of a large ocean.

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Castle Rock map

Location in Kansas

Directions:   From 1-70 take the Quinter Exit (107) south on Castle Rock Road for 14.6 miles. Turn east and go 4 miles to the Castle Rock outcrop turnoff. Drive 1 mile north to the cattle grate. Follow the road to the right and circle into Hackberry Creek valley and back to the grate (a little over 2 miles). This is private land, so please treat it with respect. Return south 1 mile to the road. Travel east 2.8 miles to Banner Road. Take Banner Road 12.4 miles north to 1-70 at Collyer.

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Ownership: Private

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