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Kansas is a U.S. state in the Midwestern United States. Its capital is Topeka and its largest city is Wichita, with its most populated county being Johnson County. Kansas is bordered by Nebraska on the north; Missouri on the east; Oklahoma on the south; and Colorado on the west. Kansas is named after the Kansas River, which in turn was named after the Kansa Native Americans who lived along its banks. The tribe’s name (natively kką:ze) is often said to mean “people of the (south) wind” although this was probably not the term’s original meaning. For thousands of years, what is now Kansas was home to numerous and diverse Native American tribes. Tribes in the eastern part of the state generally lived in villages along the river valleys. Tribes in the western part of the state were semi-nomadic and hunted large herds of bison.
Kansas was first settled by Americans in 1827 with the establishment of Fort Leavenworth. The pace of settlement accelerated in the 1850s, in the midst of political wars over the slavery debate. When it was officially opened to settlement by the U.S. government in 1854 with the Kansas–Nebraska Act, abolitionist Free-Staters from New England and pro-slavery settlers from neighboring Missouri rushed to the territory to determine whether Kansas would become a free state or a slave state. Thus, the area was a hotbed of violence and chaos in its early days as these forces collided, and was known as Bleeding Kansas. The abolitionists prevailed, and on January 29, 1861, Kansas entered the Union as a free state, hence the unofficial nickname “The Free State.”
By 2015, Kansas was one of the most productive agricultural states, producing high yields of wheat, corn, sorghum, and soybeans. Kansas, which has an area of 82,278 square miles (213,100 square kilometers) is the 15th-largest state by area and is the 34th m\ost-populous of the 50 states with a population of 2,911,505. Residents of Kansas are called Kansans. Mount Sunflower is Kansas’s highest point at 4,039 feet (1,231 meters).
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Kansas is bordered by Nebraska on the north; Missouri on the east; Oklahoma on the south; and Colorado on the west. The state is divided into 105 counties with 628 cities, and is located equidistant from the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The geographic center of the 48 contiguous states is in Smith County near Lebanon. Until 1989, the Meades Ranch Triangulation Station in Osborne County was the geodetic center of North America: the central reference point for all maps of North America. The geographic center of Kansas is in Barton County.
Kansas is underlain by a sequence of horizontal to gently westward dipping sedimentary rocks. A sequence of Mississippian, Pennsylvanian and Permian rocks outcrop in the eastern and southern part of the state. The state’s western half has exposures of Cretaceous through Tertiary sediments, the latter derived from the erosion of the uplifted Rocky Mountains to the west. These are underlain by older Paleozoic and Mesozoic sediments which correlate well with the outcrops to the east. The state’s northeastern corner was subjected to glaciation in the Pleistocene and is covered by glacial drift and loess.
The western two-thirds of the state, lying in the great central plain of the United States, has a generally flat or undulating surface, while the eastern third has many hills and forests. The land gradually rises from east to west; its altitude ranges from 684 ft (208 m) along the Verdigris River at Coffeyville in Montgomery County, to 4,039 ft (1,231 m) at Mount Sunflower, 0.5 miles (0.80 kilometers) from the Colorado border, in Wallace County. It is a common misconception that Kansas is the flattest state in the nation — in 2003, a tongue-in-cheek study famously declared the state “flatter than a pancake”. In fact, Kansas has a maximum topographic relief of 3,360 ft (1,020 m), making it the 23rd flattest U.S. state measured by maximum relief.
Nearly 75 mi (121 km) of the state’s northeastern boundary is defined by the Missouri River. The Kansas River (locally known as the Kaw), formed by the junction of the Smoky Hill and Republican rivers at appropriately-named Junction City, joins the Missouri River at Kansas City, after a course of 170 mi (270 km) across the northeastern part of the state.
The Arkansas River (pronunciation varies), rising in Colorado, flows with a bending course for nearly 500 mi (800 km) across the western and southern parts of the state. With its tributaries, (the Little Arkansas, Ninnescah, Walnut, Cow Creek, Cimarron, Verdigris, and the Neosho), it forms the southern drainage system of the state.
Kansas’s other rivers are the Saline and Solomon Rivers, tributaries of the Smoky Hill River; the Big Blue, Delaware, and Wakarusa, which flow into the Kansas River; and the Marais des Cygnes, a tributary of the Missouri River. Spring River is located between Riverton and Baxter Springs.