Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park in northwestern Kansas opened in October 2019. This 332-acre park contains 220 acres of badlands eroded from the Late Cretaceous Niobrara Chalk. It reveals the rugged, harsh, yet striking beautiful remains of an ancient seaway that once cut ancient North America in half. Its fossil content has enriched museums around the world. It tells the story in stone of a time when the world rapidly changed. The findings and tentative conclusions in this article are based upon scientific investigations over the past 150 years and the Creation Curse Catastrophe (CCC) geologic model of earth history. Numerous links are provided for those desiring more study.
What is the geologic setting of the Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park?
The trails at the park take the visitor along rim views of the 100-foot-tall spires and cliffs eroded from the Smoky Hill Chalk. The chalk beds are classified Late Cretaceous by geologists. The chalk layer varies in thickness from 450 to 700 feet. Only a portion of it is exposed in Kansas and other states.
Before the Park became open to the public in 2019, outstanding examples of the Niobrara Chalk were available at Castle Rock and Monument Rocks near the park. Here remnants of the chalk beds stand as sculptured towers in the plains. One can begin to get a grasp of the enormous amount of erosion that has left only these widely scattered remnants standing tall in the Kansas flat lands.
It is important to remember that many other layers of various rock types underlie, as well as overlie, the chalk beds. In this part of Kansas, the total depth of sedimentary rocks can be over a mile thick. The chalk layer is near the top of all the accumulated beds. This additional accumulation of strata (layers) is evidence that much geologic activity happened before the chalk beds were deposited.
What materials comprise the chalk beds?
The chalk beds are deposits left behind from an ancient seaway that once cut across North America from north to south. North America became separated into two land masses from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean. What is called the Western Interior Seaway covered huge portions of central USA and Canada. In this Western Interior Seaway lived enormous amounts of a single-celled algae called coccolithophores. They formed the base of the complex food web living in the sea. They developed hard shells around themselves called coccoliths. When the algae died, the hard coccoliths accumulated on the sea bottom. Coccoliths represent the bulk of the chalk composition.
When did these chalk beds become important in the study of earth’s history?
As the American West was being developed in the 1860s and later, vast discoveries of new and unusual fossils were made. The Kansas Pacific Railroad and numerous US military forts used to defend the settlers opened the way for development of new cities. Army surgeons and other educated people began to find fossils. Soon well-known paleontologists from eastern universities began a thorough exploration of the fossils and the geology of the newly opened land areas.
Kansas fossils from these layers are now found in museums around the world. For example, Dr. Theophilus Turner, an army surgeon from Fort Wallace, in 1877 found the first long-necked plesiosaur. Previously, only short-necked fossil plesiosaurs had been discovered. Elasmosaurus platyurus, as it came to be known scientifically, was the first of many other long-necked plesiosaurs to be found. For a detailed explanation of the fossils found in the chalk beds, there is an excellent website available with photos and descriptions. Within easy driving range from this state park are world renown fossil museums in Oakley and Hays, Kansas.
Museums, books, articles, etc. all portray these rocks and fossils in terms of the theory of evolution and millions of years of time. How did this come about?
Fossils do not come with dates attached to them. The field evidence has to be fit into some type of framework to make it understandable. Although earliest studies of the earth attempted to fit discoveries into a biblical framework, for the past 150 years any guidelines of Scripture have been rejected. A belief in purely natural processes for origins has been substituted. This happened when new findings of science clashed with traditional teachings about the Bible. Also, society had gradually adopted philosophies that emphasized non-Scriptural fundamentals. Part of the reason was that theologians misunderstood some portions of Scripture relating to Creation. In addition, there was a powerful desire by some to rid education of anything Biblical-based, especially involving the study of origins.
So, how did the biblical explanation become convoluted?
The age of the earth was the first essential geological question that became distorted. While the exact date of Creation is unknown, the Bible gives evidence that Creation took place in terms of thousands of years ago. Contrary to this revelation from the Maker himself, certain persons began to speculate on the age of the earth based upon the present. By the early 1800s, fifty years before Darwin’s book, The Origin of Species, the young earth belief had been ousted. Then, when theologians of Darwin’s day erroneously taught him the Bible said species are unchangeable, he discarded the biblical account as he found species can and do change. Rapidly, after Darwin’s book, the two thoughts of organic evolution and deep-time were married and there has been no divorce.
Why are areas such as Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park important to Christians who seek to understand how geology fits into the biblical account?
Geological explanations around the world are no longer biblically based. The current educational system uses a combination evolutionary and deep-time approach to explain geological findings. For the Christian who accepts the biblical account of a recent Creation and a direct creation of life kinds, this presents an enigma. Here in this newly, opened Kansas State Park, we can take a look at how the physical evidences can fit into the biblical account.
You mention the CCC biblical-based geologic model. How can it help us better grasp the geologic history of these badlands? Why it is important to draw upon all that Scripture provides in seeking an historical framework for the past?
The CCC model recognizes a young earth, special creation and universal Flood. In that way, it has much in common with other creation models that are now more widely circulated. The CCC model is distinctive in how it uses the biblical revelation as the foundation upon which to use scientific findings of the past. One fundamental difference between the CCC model and other current creation models is its recognition of the effects of the Genesis 3 Curse pronounced upon the earth. It is the only modern creation model that includes much geologic activity after Adam but before the Flood. A listing of other important distinctions of the CCC model are provided in this link.
So, then, when we look at the Chalk beds, what evidences, besides a Biblical-based chronology, are there that its fossils are not millions of years old?
Traditional dating of the Chalk beds say the Western Interior Sea in Kansas lasted about 5 million years, roughly from 87 to 82 million years ago. Most sedimentary layers have no way of being dated by themselves. Sedimentary layers are mainly dated by their placement in the geologic column. This is done by their index fossils or their stratigraphic relationship with other layers that are datable by their radiometric minerals. The catch is that all methods used to date the age of the rocks are based upon various assumptions.
Fossils themselves can provide their own “smoking guns”: evidences showing sudden and catastrophic events were involved in their origins. In the Smoky Hill Chalk, for example, we have an outstanding detail glossed over by evolutionists. In 1952, George Sternberg found the now famous “fish within a fish” in the Cove County, Kansas, chalk beds. He found preserved, in great detail, the fossil remains of two fish. The largest one, 4 meters long, had just swallowed a 2 meter fish. The bones of both fish are perfectly preserved in fossil form.
Remember, a prime need for fossil preservation is that any specimen showing such detail must have been buried exceedingly quickly! Any lengthy time between death and fossilization would have not allowed such detail to remain intact.
How, then, could such a large fish in an inland sea up to 600 feet deep be suddenly buried? And, just after swallowing another large fish? It would mean something quite out of the ordinary must have been occurring Much sediment would have suddenly entombed them. No time to float away on the surface or to be consumed by another creature.
This obvious detail is omitted when Sternberg’s famous specimen is discussed. It is now known that the Sternberg 1952 find is not unique. Since that time, more “fish within a fish” fossils have been found in the chalk. They all give solid evidence of a very rapid accumulation of chalk in the Western Interior Sea during, at least, certain times of its existence. Any idea that the coccoliths accumulated only slowly on the seabed over millions of years does not fit the fossil evidence found by Sternberg and others.
Some Young Earth scientists say this inland sea represents retreating Flood waters at the end of the Flood. What evidence do you have to the contrary?
Note why such an answer is a logical conclusion based upon their concept of the Flood. Their model assumes the Flood’s action is responsible for the bulk of the fossil record. Thousands of feet of other sedimentary rocks are found underneath the chalk beds. They would be explained as earlier Flood deposits. In this view, The Western Interior Sea is the final waters draining off the continent.
There is a big flaw in this scenario. After the Western Interior Sea receded, up to thousands of feet of strata (layers) were stripped off parts of Kansas and other areas of the North American continent. The shoreline of the ancient Gulf of Mexico moved a couple of hundred miles to the south. How could such an enormous amount of erosion on the continent occur if the Western Interior Sea was the last of the Flood waters? There must have been a later and even greater event.
So, how does the CCC model explain the great erosion of the North American continent after the Western Interior Sea withdrew?
The answer involves one of the fundamental differences between the CCC model and the current, widely expounded Flood model. The CCC model envisions great geologic activity between the Curse on the earth (given in the Garden of Eden) and the start of the Genesis Flood Event (GFE) in the days of Noah.
The CCC model visualizes the temporal Western Interior Sea existing before the Flood. The vast sedimentary layers underlying the Chalk beds also bear witness to many other earlier sea/continental deposits. These underlying marine/continental layers were laid down during the pre-Flood time the CCC model calls the Ancient Changing Earth (ACE). Various geologic events during the ACE shaped the development of not only the North American continent, but all the continents.
So, geology not only records events from Creation Week and Noah’s Flood, but many other times when God has intervened in earth’s history. Is that correct?
Yes, God used these times to show his power in the Ancient Changing Earth (ACE). To this day, vast areas on all continents have no layers of strata with fossils. These areas are called Precambrian Shields. They are remnants of the early earth where man and other land creatures and plants originally lived. The shield areas are geologically very stable. They were least affected by the catastrophic events in nearby ocean areas. Later, the layers formed by these oceanic events were elevated into land areas. Life could and did migrate into these new lands in an ecological succession that is now interpreted as evolutionary. The evidence shows new types of life suddenly appearing in the fossil record (and often, later, only to suddenly disappear). This does not speak of evolution, but migration of already existing life into new areas. Ecological collapses are prominent in the fossil record. Many forms of life depending upon each other all die out, never to be seen again. New food webs then take over.
So, can you summarize the geologic events at the Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park in light of the biblical CCC model?
The Chalk beds were deposited during a temporal, Ancient Changing Earth (ACE) intrusion of the ocean across the center of the North American continent. The fact that thousands of feet of marine/continental deposits underlie the chalk beds give evidence of even earlier and longer events in the ACE. What is now Kansas, and in fact much of the USA, at the end of Creation Week, was still ocean offshore from the Canadian Shield land mass. These offshore seas appear to have been more shallow than now. Through numerous catastrophes during the ACE, God created and then added more land from the sea deposits. This is why the Chalk beds are themselves underlain by thick sequences of other marine/continental layers. Almost all the area we now know as the USA have these former sea deposits on top of the foundational rocks. These Paleozoic layers underlying most of the USA are immense. This is true of the thick Paleozoic layers underlying the Chalk beds at the park.
The Western Interior Sea retreated as forces from the west created the Rocky Mountains. The Western Interior Sea bottom became elevated by the same forces. This did not all come about during a singular event. Geologic studies show that the current elevation of the Western USA took place during multiple events. But, it was elevated enough before the Flood so the area once covered by the Western Interior Sea was left high and dry. Currently, the western side of Kansas nearest the Rockies is about 3000 feet higher than the eastern boundary with Missouri. Later tremendous amounts of debris were deposited off the rising Rockies. These additional layers overlie parts of the former seabed.
During the Genesis Flood Event (GFE), the 40 days and nights of torrential rains created mega-rivers rushing over all land areas worldwide. These vast torrents of waters rushing to the oceans quickly eroded vast amounts of strata. Large segments of the Chalk Beds which once extended much further east of their current boundary in Kansas are now missing, as a result.
Strange sights can sometimes be found in the highly eroded mid-continent areas. For example, Mushroom Rock State Park in Kansas to the east of Little Jerusalem Badlands contains five acres of mushroom-shaped objects. These “mushrooms” were once contained within the Dakota Formation. These harder concretion-like objects were left behind as the softer surrounding rock was eroded. Some mushroom-shaped objects are as large as 27 feet in diameter. They bear further witness to massive water erosion of the GFE.
But even much greater evidence of the massive erosion caused by the GFE is found in the far West. Witness the many mesas and buttes found in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and other states. The mesas and buttes represent only a small remnant of the land that once existed. Volcanoes in the west had erupted during the ACE and left distinct ash beds within the chalk. These ACE volcanoes later suffered vast erosion during the GFE. For some, all that remains to be seen is their hard, central vent rocks. They now spiral up into the desert sky, stark witnesses of the erosive power of the GFE that destroyed all land life and birds not within the Ark.
In closing, another important fact must be mentioned. These ancient acts of God, while they destroyed, also brought into being great benefits for future humans.
During all of earth’s history, from Creation until now, geologic events gave birth to many resources within the earth for man’s later use. The Niobrara Chalk is no exception. Here are just a few of its uses:
Truly, as Scripture repeatedly tells us:
“The earth is the LORD’S and the fulness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein; for he has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the rivers.” Psalm 24:1-2, Revised Standard Version.
Read other vital articles on commonly misunderstood Creation questions.