Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Quarterly 6:1 (Winter 1986). Copyright © 1986 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Kansas does not spring to most minds as possessing unique or picturesque landscapes. A study by the Ozark Regional Commission to help promote tourism in Kansas found that the state is generally perceived to be devoid of scenery and things to do. l Drab was a word used by several respondents. Some held outright negative images of Kansas; others had no image at all and no desire to visit the state.

Kansas inspires in outsiders a certain amount of respect for its mercurial weather, bumper grain harvests, and natural gas and oil deposits, but it has no spectacular mountains with accompanying ski resorts, no ocean beaches, no quaint eighteenth-century villages, no booming industrial belt. Even the town that carries the name of the state, Kansas City, is for the most part an appendage of Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansans sometimes seem almost apologetic about their state's dull "image," or lack of scenic vistas. To compensate, there has been a recent attempt to capitalize on the commonly held association of Kansas with the classic film The Wizard of Oz. The attempt goes so far as to rename a highway "The Yellow Brick Road" and a town "The Emerald City." The current slogan from the State Department of Economic Development, "Kansas-Land of Ahs," springs from the same inspiration.

In reality, the landscapes of Kansas are very subtle. To the eye accustomed to identifying beauty as forests, oceans, or mountains, the vastness and the sweep of Kansas landscapes can seem empty, and the linear patterns boring. Yet, according to C. Rubenstein, Kansans are among those Americans who experience the greatest psychological wellbeing. They experience less stress, a greater sense of personal competence, and are more satisfied with their communities, homes, and neighborhoods than citizens in many other parts of the country. If geography can create a sense of security and contentment, then Kansans must not feel deprived by their environment. The focus of this paper is on the aesthetic preferences that Kansans have for some of the more common landscapes in their state. We will assess the elements in favored landscapes and examine the variability of tastes for persons of both sexes and all ages who are familiar with different areas of the state.