This geologic oddity struck us as more of a rock town than a city (though we see only an upside if nearby Minneapolis decides to re-incorporate as "Boulder, Kansas").
As an attraction, this Rock City predates the other Rock City by many decades. Spread across an area about the size of two football fields are 200 sandstone "concretions" -- globe-shaped boulders up to 27 feet in diameter in an otherwise unremarkable Kansas pasture. Nowhere else on Earth are so many large concretions grouped in so small an area, supposedly.
They are naturally spaced in places that one can imagine walking up avenues and craggy back alleys. The most charismatic rocks were given new names by local school kids a few years back: Turtle, Twin Sisters, Bathtub, Steamboat, etc. Kissing Rock was re-named Doughnut-Hole Rock. Children are free to scramble all over the big boulders; basically, this is an attraction where kids can exhaust themselves.
We spoke with Julius Skanks, an old-timer who was running the cash register. "Back in the old days they was another one of these over by Clay Center," he told us, "but they dynamited it for road rock in 1915. They wanted to do that here, but the old man that owned it said, 'No, you're not going to.'" A plaque at Rock City, dated 1970, dedicates an "eternal flag" to be flown in memory of that man, William Russell Nisbeth, but the flagpole was empty when we visited.
Skanks said, "I had a state man here three years ago. He said he'd like to have trees planted to block the view of them houses. And I said, 'Why did you ever rezone that pasture land to let them build houses out there?' If they put cedar trees up along there, it would get so hot out here people couldn't stand it." Skanks also told us that the state wants Rock City to build new toilets -- to replace the ones servicing Rock City visitors since 1971.