Elk County, located in the southeastern part of the U.S. state of Kansas, is a region known for its rolling hills, expansive prairies, and abundant wildlife. Encompassing an area of approximately 650 square miles, Elk County is situated in the Flint Hills region, which is characterized by its tallgrass prairies and limestone outcrops. In this comprehensive overview, we’ll explore the geography, climate, rivers, lakes, and other significant features of Elk County. Check homethodology to learn more about the state of Kansas.


Elk County is located in the southern part of Kansas, bordered by Greenwood County to the north, Wilson County to the east, Chautauqua County to the south, and Butler County to the west. The county is primarily rural, with vast expanses of grassland, woodlands, and agricultural land. The landscape is characterized by rolling hills, shallow valleys, and occasional limestone bluffs, typical of the Flint Hills region.


The climate of Elk County is classified as humid subtropical, with hot, humid summers and cold, dry winters. The region experiences four distinct seasons, with temperatures varying throughout the year. The climate is influenced by its inland location, with occasional extremes in temperature and weather patterns.

Summers in Elk County are typically hot and humid, with average high temperatures in the 80s°F to 90s°F range and occasional heatwaves bringing temperatures above 100°F. Winters are cold and dry, with average low temperatures in the 20s°F to 30s°F range and occasional snowfall. Spring and fall are transitional seasons, with mild temperatures and variable weather conditions.


Elk County is intersected by several rivers and streams that flow through its rolling hills and prairies, providing drainage for the region’s agricultural land and habitat for wildlife. These rivers and streams also offer opportunities for recreational activities such as fishing, kayaking, and wildlife viewing. Some of the notable rivers in Elk County include:

  1. Elk River: The Elk River is the namesake river of Elk County, flowing from the northwestern part of the county to the southeastern part, where it joins the Verdigris River. The river is popular for fishing, particularly for smallmouth bass, and offers scenic views of the surrounding countryside.
  2. Verdigris River: The Verdigris River forms the southern boundary of Elk County, flowing from north to south before joining the Neosho River near the town of Coffeyville. The river is known for its clear waters and offers opportunities for fishing and boating.
  3. Fall River: Fall River is a tributary of the Verdigris River, flowing through the eastern part of Elk County before joining the main stem near the town of Neodesha. The river is popular for fishing and canoeing and provides access to Fall River Lake, a reservoir managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.


While Elk County is primarily known for its rivers and prairies, there are also several lakes and reservoirs scattered throughout the region. These lakes provide opportunities for fishing, boating, swimming, and picnicking, as well as habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife. Some of the notable lakes in Elk County include:

  1. Elk City Lake: Elk City Lake is a reservoir located in the northern part of Elk County, near the town of Elk The lake is surrounded by wooded hills and offers opportunities for fishing, boating, and camping, as well as hiking trails and scenic overlooks.
  2. Fall River Lake: Fall River Lake is a reservoir located in the eastern part of Elk County, near the town of Toronto. The lake is popular for fishing, particularly for crappie and largemouth bass, and offers camping facilities, boat ramps, and picnic areas.
  3. Cedar Vale City Lake: Cedar Vale City Lake is a small reservoir located in the southwestern part of Elk County, near the town of Cedar Vale. The lake is popular for fishing and provides a peaceful retreat for residents and visitors alike.

Natural Features:

Elk County is home to several natural features, including woodlands, prairies, and scenic overlooks, that showcase the region’s natural beauty and biodiversity. Some of the notable natural features in Elk County include:

  1. Flint Hills: The Flint Hills region extends into the northern part of Elk County, characterized by its tallgrass prairies, limestone outcrops, and rolling hills. The Flint Hills are one of the last remaining tallgrass prairie ecosystems in North America and provide habitat for a variety of plant and animal species.
  2. Chautauqua Hills: The Chautauqua Hills extend into the southern part of Elk County, featuring wooded hills and scenic vistas. The hills are popular for hiking, birdwatching, and hunting, and provide habitat for deer, turkey, and other wildlife.
  3. Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve: While not located directly within Elk County, the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is easily accessible from the county and offers opportunities to experience the beauty and diversity of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. The preserve features hiking trails, interpretive exhibits, and guided tours of the prairie and historic ranch buildings.


In conclusion, Elk County, Kansas, is a region of diverse geography, rich history, and natural beauty. From its rolling hills and prairies to its meandering rivers and scenic lakes, the county offers a variety of landscapes and ecosystems to explore and enjoy. Whether you’re fishing along the Elk River, hiking through the Flint Hills, or camping by the shores of Elk City Lake, Elk County has something for everyone to experience and appreciate in the great outdoors.

Geography of Elk County, Kansas
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