Kansas is situated right in the center of the United States, in what is called the ‘American Heartland’. The majority of Kansas is in the Central time zone, with the 4 western counties following Mountain Time. Kansas covers 82,277 square miles and had an estimated 2,775,997 inhabitants in 2007. Its highest point is Mount Sunflower at 4,039 feet. Summers are very hot at 93F, (34C), and winters are cold averaging 36F (2C), with up to 35 inches of snowfall. Kansas also suffers from many thunderstorms and F5 tornadoes – the most powerful tornadoes of all. There are many major rivers flowing throughout Kansas including the Missouri river which flows down the north eastern boundary; the Kansas or Kaw River and the Arkansas River with its many tributaries. There are also many National Parks and Historic trails throughout the State including the California National Historic Trail, the Fort Scott National Historic Site and the Oregon National Historic Trail.
The original inhabitants were the nomadic Kansa tribe of Indians, and they gave the name to both the area and the Kansas River which runs right through it. Bison were originally hunted in the area. European settlers arrived in the 1830's and after some unrest Kansas was declared a free state. After the Civil War the area was populated by immigrants who saw the potential for farmland in the vast prairie. Kansas is still a major agricultural producer today, growing wheat, sorghum and sunflowers on the great central plains. The eastern part of Kansas is somewhat hillier, and on the west side, close to the Colorado border the highest elevations are reached.
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