The Chautauqua Hills run in a narrow band (ten miles wide at most) from the Kansas–Oklahoma line up to about Yates Center. Rolling uplands mark the region, and the Verdigris, Fall, and Elk rivers flow at the bottoms of the slopes.
A thin layer of dry, sandy soil covers shale and sandstone across most of the Chautauqua Hills region. Throughout the uplands, rock outcroppings jut from the sides of many of the slopes.
The river valleys historically harbored a thick growth of oak trees, although cedars have invaded more recently. A mixed tallgrass prairie occupies the higher ground. This combination of woodland and prairie is known as the Cross Timbers.
Although the soils are dry, the Chautauqua Hills still have the rainfall and streams necessary to support both woodlands and wildlife.
As with the rest of Kansas, temperatures in the Chautauqua Hills swing with the seasons, ranging from a mean maximum of about 91°F in the summer to a mean minimum of about 44°F in the winter. The region receives over 35 inches of rain annually.
The thin, rocky soils of the Chautauqua Hills are not ideal for raising crops. Most of the land in this region is used to pasture livestock, particularly in the less wooded areas.
Also of Interest
Although the Chautauqua Hills are very similar in appearance to the Flint Hills, there are differences between the two regions. The Chautauqua Hills have sandy instead of clayey soil, and Cross Timbers instead of tallgrass prairie. Topography is another difference. The Flint Hills have more relief and are higher in elevation than the Chautauqua Hills. As far as agricultural purposes are concerned, however, the two regions are fairly similar—grazing is the focus.