Middle Kansas: Lowlands And Three Kinds Of Hills

Part 2 of 3 in a series on Kansas Regions


Kansas is a great place to buy land for farming and ranching, but not all the land in the state is the same. Six regions comprise the middle third of Kansas, four of which we will discuss here. The other two, a narrow band of High Plains and Arkansas River Lowlands, were discussed in our article on Western Kansas. Let’s take a closer look now at the Wellington-McPherson Lowlands, the Smoky Hills, the Flint Hills, and the Red Hills.

Wellington-McPherson Lowlands

The Wellington-McPherson Lowlands are an alluvial plain covered by fertile soils that are good for growing crops, with a landscape very similar to the Arkansas River Lowlands (1). In addition, one of the largest salt deposits in the world is located in this region. As a result, salt mining is a major industry in several of the counties in this region.

The county that stands out the most from an agricultural standpoint in the Wellington-McPherson Lowlands is Sumner County. This county reported the most large farms (1,000 acres and up) in the state, the most acres of harvested cropland, the most acres and bushels of wheat, the most acres of soybeans, and the most acres and bales of cotton.

Sedgwick County is another example from the Wellington-McPherson Lowlands that shows some different facets of what this region can produce. Sedgwick County had the most small farms (from 1-9 acres) in Kansas, the most farms with harvested cropland, and the most cultivated Christmas trees.

Smoky Hills

The Smoky Hills cover a large area in the north-central part of the state, along the path of the Smoky Hill River, which originates in Colorado. Three types of rock formations exist in the Smoky Hills: Sandstone in the east, limestone in the middle (sometimes called the Blue Hills), and chalk buttes in the west (2). The chalk formations of Castle Rock and Monument Rock are notable examples that are open to the public and have been included in the list of the 8 wonders of Kansas.

Agriculture in the Smoky Hills is not quite as robust as it is in Western Kansas. Perhaps not surprisingly, the most productive county in the Smoky Hills region was one that partly consisted of High Plains land, Hodgeman County. This county brought in the highest agricultural income and the highest per-farm average profit in the region. Here are a few more highlights from counties in the Smoky Hills:

  • Russell county produced the most acres and bushels of oats in the state.
  • Trego county had the most acres of sorghum for silage or greenchop in the state.
  • Barton county had the most sorghum farms in the state.
  • McPherson county had the highest number of egg-laying hens in the state.
  • Republic county brought in the most money for sheep, goats, wool, mohair, and milk in the state.(3)

Flint Hills

The Flint Hills stretch from north to south in a strip about 50 miles wide, east of Wichita in central Kansas. These hills are characterized by thin layers of soil over solid rock, making this land less suited to being plowed and more suited to grazing in many parts of the region (4). Many varieties of hardy native grasses grow in the Flint Hills, thanks to the land in this region remaining largely unaltered since the prairie days.

However, the Flint Hills still managed to produce a respectable yield of 30 million bushels of corn in 2017, showing that crops are certainly possible. In fact, crops brought in 40% of the overall income for this region, with the other 60% coming from livestock.

Overall, the Flint Hills as a region saw net farm incomes that were lower than the Kansas average, except for in Chase and Morris counties, where they were a bit higher than the Kansas average. Here are a few more highlights of production from the Flint Hills, as reported in the 2017 Census of Agriculture (5).

  • Butler county had the most acres in the state of forage land (land used for all hay and haylage, grass silage, and greenchop).
  • Republic county had the most sheep and lambs in the state.
  • Harvey County (partly Flint Hills, part Wellington-McPherson Lowlands, and part Arkansas River Lowlands) produced the most bushels of barley in the state.

Red Hills

The Red Hills are located in the south-central part of Kansas and are comprised of rocky red soils and rugged terrain, with lots of caves and natural bridges (6). The Red Hills region of Kansas is an area where large-scale agriculture is necessary to remain profitable, as reflected in the fact that Comanche county has the highest average size farm in the state and has only one farm below 50 acres. In other Red Hills counties, this pattern continues, with the average size farm in the region at approximately double the Kansas average, and the median size farm in the region at county approximately triple the Kansas median. (In the rest of Kansas, most farms are from 50-179 acres with just over half of all farms in the state under 180 acres).

Red Hills counties produce cattle, corn, wheat, sorghum, hay, and various other crops. As a whole, the region brings in more income from livestock than crops, with approximately a 60-40% split (7).

Get Help Buying Property In Kansas Today

There’s a lot more to finding a farm or ranch property than just picking a certain number of acres or starting with a max price. If you are looking for agricultural land in Kansas, count on the American Land Brokers agents to help make your search more efficient. Contact an agent today to get started.

This article is part of a series. Navigate to the other parts of the series here:

Go to Part 1: Western Kansas
Go to Part 3: Eastern Kansas 
Return to the Overview of Kansas Regions (coming soon!)