We’ve all felt the pull to escape the city’s buzz and find some peace under the stars. In Kansas, we have found that peace many times.

At RWT Adventures, Alison and I like to pack up the RV and set out in search of that perfect, pitch-black sky. For astrotourists like us, light pollution is the arch-nemesis during our astrotourism RV travels dimming the stars we’re so eager to see. 

In the Sunflower State of Kansas with its wide-open spaces and prairies, there are still places where the night sky takes your breath away.

Understanding Light Pollution in Kansas

Before we set off, let’s get a handle on what we’re up against. The Bortle scale is our light pollution guide to measuring the darkness of the night sky, with Class 1 being the darkest and Class 9 the brightest. 

Our stargazing map is your ticket to finding those elusive Class 1 and 2 spots in Kansas. The state’s light pollution map reveals the contrast between the urban glow and the untouched dark spots.

It’s what we use to steer clear of the bright cities and head towards the pristine skies of national grasslands, state parks, and wherever we can find a dark place to camp.

Light Pollution Map of Kansas

For a more detailed dark sky map for camping, try our main map.

Dark Sky Areas: Low on Bortle Scale

Kansas is a state we love to use as a stopping point on our trips to the north of our homebase of Dallas.  Here are different places in Kansas you might want to check out when you are on an astrotourism vacation.

North Kansas

For a sky scattered with stars, Sheridan Wildlife Area near Quinter is a hidden gem. Here, the Milky Way is not just a picture but a panorama stretched across the sky.

South Kansas

Head towards Cimarron National Grassland for a stargazer’s retreat. The remote location translates to quiet nights where the stars outnumber the sounds.

East Kansas

Cross Timbers State Park offers a natural canopy for an intimate stargazing experience. This park is a place where the stars peek through the treetops, offering a unique celestial view.

a barn near cropland
Photo by Taylor Hunt on Pexels

West Kansas

Out west, you’ll want to set your compass for the open skies above Goodman State Fishing Lake. With minimal light pollution, this is a prime spot for a night under the stars.

Central Kansas

Wilson State Park shines as a beacon for stargazers, boasting a Bortle Class 2 rating. It’s the heartland’s answer to the call of the cosmos, offering dark skies for deep space observation.

These areas in Kansas are celebrated for their dark skies, allowing you and fellow astrotourists to gaze at amazing dark skies.

The Brightest Nights: Light Pollution Hotspots

If you pick Kansas for a stargazing trip, where are some areas you should try to avoid to make the most of your nighttime fun?

North Kansas

The skies over Hays capture more than just starlight; they also catch the city’s glow. This northern city stands as the most light-polluted spot in the region, making stargazing here a minor challenge.

South Kansas

Garden City and Liberal illuminate the southern sky with their urban glow. These cities are the bright areas of South Kansas, where the stars compete with streetlights.

South Kansas

Garden City and Liberal illuminate the southern sky with their urban glow. These cities are the bright areas of South Kansas, where the stars compete with streetlights.

fireflies and star trails at Lake Scott in Kansas
Alison Takacs | RWT Adventures

West Kansas

Dodge City adds its own shine to the western skies of Kansas. The city’s lights can be seen for miles, so head away from this area for an enjoyable stargazing experience.

Central Kansas

In the center of the state, the city lights of Salina join Wichita in lighting up the Kansas night. These central hubs of activity are where the night sky is at its brightest.

grass field beside building structures
Photo by Andrew Peterson Pexels

In these sections of Kansas, the natural darkness of night is impacted by the lights of human activity. For anyone seeking more stars, these spots remind us of the balance between development and the dark skies needed for a great astrotourism adventure.

Geographical Influence on Stargazing in Kansas

Kansas is divided into several distinct geographic regions, each with its own impact on light pollution and stargazing.

High Plains

The High Plains region, characterized by its wide-open spaces and higher elevations, provides some of the darkest skies in Kansas due to its low population numbers and limited urban development. The clear, dry air here enhances visibility for stargazers.

River Lowlands

In contrast, the Arkansas River Lowlands may experience light pollution from small towns and farming operations that can interfere with dark skies. This is especially true near larger agricultural towns.

Osage Cuestas

Moving to the Osage Cuestas is the transition from prairie to woodland where the presence of small towns can contribute to localized light pollution.There are still many areas well-suited for observing the night sky.

Smoky Hills

The Smoky Hills region offers a mix of dark and light areas. Its varied topography, with rolling hills and rock outcroppings, can offer natural barriers that shield some spots from light pollution, creating pockets of darkness ideal for stargazing.

Flint Hills

The Flint Hills are recognized for conservation efforts and minimal light pollution thanks to the large expanses of native tallgrass prairie. This region often enjoys darker skies due to limited artificial light sources.

Glaciated Region

The Glaciated Region has rolling hills which can play a role in varying levels of light pollution. Human-made sources of light can impact the clarity of the night sky in the area.

Each region’s landscape, from the flat expanses of the High Plains to the sweeping grasslands of the Flint Hills, creates a unique stargazing experience. Geography plays a crucial role in the visibility of the night sky all over Kansas.

Stargazing Tips and Gear

For stargazing in Kansas, enjoying the state’s varied landscapes means being prepared for a range of conditions. Here are some quick tips and gear recommendations for your astro-adventures.

Plan According to the Region

Kansas’s geography impacts where and when you’ll have the best stargazing experiences. For example, the High Plains offer clear, dark skies, while areas in the east might require you to find spots away from city lights.

Monitor Weather and Lunar Cycles

Clear, moonless nights are ideal for stargazing. Use weather apps and lunar calendars to pick the perfect time for your outing.

Telescopes and Binoculars

A good quality telescope can bring distant galaxies within view, while binoculars are great for a more portable option. For beginners, a Dobsonian telescope offers ease of use and excellent viewing capabilities.

Astrophotography Equipment

If you’re into astrophotography, a DSLR camera with a tripod is essential. Consider a tracker mount for long exposure shots to capture stunning images of the night sky.

Apps and Maps

Stellarium or SkyView are fantastic apps that can help identify constellations, planets, and more in the night sky. A physical star map can be a reliable backup.

Remember, the best stargazing experience comes from blending preparation with a sense of adventure when visiting Kansas.

Not only does Kansas have plenty of places to see the stars, it also has its own share of active stargazers and astronomy experts helping to preserve the night for everyone. Here are some ways dark sky advocates are helping.

Conservation and Dark-Sky Advocacy in Kansas

Astronomy Clubs and Advocacy

Kansas houses several astronomy clubs, like the Astronomy Associates of Lawrence and the Kansas Astronomical Observers, which play a crucial role in promoting stargazing and educating the public about the importance of dark skies. These clubs often host events in dark sky locations, creating a great community for dark sky advocates.

Dark Sky Parks and Places

Kansas boasts a selection of parks with low light pollution, ideal for stargazing. Locations such as Cross Timbers State Park and the Cimarron National Grassland are recognized for their dark skies, offering near-zero light pollution zones for astrophotography and celestial observation. Local groups are working hard to expand this list regularly.

photo of galaxy
Photo by Bubi Nuni on Pexels

Legislative Efforts and Local Initiatives

While Kansas does not have specific statewide legislation for dark sky preservation yet, various local initiatives and guidelines encourage the use of shielded lighting fixtures and low-glare lighting to reduce light pollution in towns across the state. These measures aim to conserve dark skies indirectly, highlighting the need for continued advocacy and potential future legislative efforts.

Wrapping It Up

Kansas offers great spots for stargazing thanks to its dark sky parks and active astronomy clubs. We encourage everyone to discover the night sky’s beauty while promoting its preservation for future generations.

Takacs Family in front of Jayco RV
The Takacs Family

About the Authors

We are avid stargazers Jason and Alison Takacs also known as Roadtrippin’ with Takacs. With our two boys Preston and Grayson, we seek out some of the darkest skies in the country while also going on many incredible hiking and other outdoor adventures. As part-time RVers, we try to see as much of this amazing world as possible in our spare time and hope you will join us through this blog on RWT Adventures and other forms of social media as we explore the night sky and other natural wonders as hardcore astrotourists.