The Osage Cuestas (pronounced Kwestas), encompassing nearly all of eastern Kansas south of the Kansas River, are a region of hills and ridges, steep on one side and gently sloping on the other. Because the Osage Cuestas cover so much area, there is plenty of variation in the terrain, though not as much topographical relief as in the Flint Hills.


The surface rock of this region is largely a combination of shale and fossil-laden limestone. Sandstone outcroppings also occur throughout the region, as does coal.

The Osage Cuestas are one of the few regions in Kansas where igneous rocks can be found. These rocks, known as lamproites, are exposed in Wilson and Woodson counties.


Moist, silty clay prevails throughout most of the region.


The eastern edge of the Osage Cuestas is a transition between hardwood forest and tallgrass prairie. Cropland and grassland cover most of the region, although trees persist along streams.


The patchwork of habitats that characterizes this region attracts a remarkable variety of wildlife. Species of interest to hunters include everything from doves and turkeys to squirrels and white-tailed deer. Catfish, crappie, and white bass attract anglers.

Those interested primarily in viewing wildlife will be pleasantly surprised by the diversity of bird species that passes through the region. Lakes attract ospreys and waterfowl, the woods are home to woodpeckers and owls, and the prairies host nighthawks and grassland sparrows. Muskrats, beavers, and coyotes are also plentiful.


Onion Creek Bridge

Water is abundant all throughout the region. Numerous reservoirs contain most of the water supply for this part of Kansas.


Temperatures in the Osage Cuestas are much like those in the rest of Kansas—variable, though the swings are a little more moderate than in the western half of the state. Lows can drop below 20°F in January, while highs climb above 90° in July.

The annual precipitation averages from over 40 inches near Fort Scott to about 35 inches near Emporia. The majority of the rain usually falls during the growing season, right when it is most needed.


The Osage Cuestas are primarily used for pasture due to the hilly terrain, but there is still plenty of room for cropland. Various feed grains make up most of the harvest.

Osage Cuestas

Also of Interest

Cuesta means “hill” or “cliff” in Spanish.

Helpful Resource

Cuesta Aerial View
This aerial view gives a general idea of the regional terrain.

Complete Series

Kansas Regions

Kansas Regions