Scott County and the county seat, Scott City, was named for Gen. Winfield Scott, a hero of the Mexican War. Like other counties on the high airid plains of western Kansas it has experienced a decline in population in recent years. The estimated population in 2004 was 4,691, which was a decrease of 8.38% from the 2000 census. Even so, Scott County is larger than five of its six neigboring counties. This is farm country and wheat is the major crop, as is evidenced by the large grain silos you will see in the town.
Taos Indians from New Mexico built a pueblo in the area that is now Scott County about 1604. The remains, El Quatelejo Pueblo Ruins, have been reconstructed and are recognized as a National Historic Landmark. When I passed through Scott County on a road trip in November, 2006, I looked for the turnoff to the ruins but was unable to find it, perhaps because the sign was down. I wish now I had tried harder, but it was late in the day and I wanted to see the nearby Monument Rocks before the sun got any lower. Monument Rocks is featured on my off-the-beaten-path tip.
Only the foundation of the pueblo remains. El Quartelejo was the furthest north and east of the known pueblos.
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The area can be very hot in summer, extremely cold in winter. Be certain to dress appropriately, bring plenty of water, and go to the restroom before heading to the chalk pyramids. There are none of these facilities for miles around. And, being in the high plains, it is possible to encounter rattlesnakes. Just use common sense.
About 20 miles south of Oakley and 25 miles north of Scott City is one of Kansas' most remote landmarks, Monument Rocks, also sometimes called Pyramids by the locals.
These chalk formations which stand on private property, but are open to the public. The setting is on the desolate open prairie, many miles from any buildings or human habitations. Please respect the property by not leaving anything behind, climbing on the rocks, or digging in the area. There are no facilities on the property.
It is believed that more than 200 million years ago, western Kansas was part of a large inland sea that extended from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean, separating the North American continent into two distinct bodies of land. It is believed that the region was warm, that tropical vegetation grew far to the north and sea-animals lived in the warm waters. There is no evidence of swift-flowing tributary rivers and the fossil evidence suggests that animals dying in this inland sea fell slowly to the bottom.
Scientists speculate that after the ocean had dried up and the bottom had risen above the level of the ocean's floor, other deposits made in lakes and by the winds covered these sediments burying them for millions of years. Over the ages, the winds and rains have again laid bare the ocean bottom, blowing and washing the softer sediments away to expose what are now known as Monument Rocks. It has been designated by Congress as a National Natural Monument.
The Smoky Hill River crosses U.S. 83 about 25 miles north of Scott City. North of the river 2.5 miles a sign directs visitors to take gravel roads another 4 miles east and 2 miles south to Monument Rocks.