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Highway 36 Counties
“The Breaks” is a scenic badland area on the extreme northern edge of Cheyenne County. This area of extremely rough terrain, with its deep ravines and gullies, is a marked contrast to the plains generally associated with the area. The Breaks are 36 miles long and 2 to 3 miles wide and offer scenic beauty that is worth the trip to see. The St. Francis Chamber of Commerce has a driving tour of the area.
Lake Atwood, in Rawlins County, is a beautiful 43 acre lake at the north end of Atwood. It is encircled by a lighted walking path with a unique walking bridge. The Lake is surrounded by magnificent old cottonwood trees, shaded campsites and picnic areas. there are camper hookups and bathroom and shower facilities available. the Hayden Nature Trail occupies the West Lake area. It is a natural wildlife habitat that is enjoyed by all and used by area schools for studying wildlife.
Established in 1967, the Rawlins County Museum is the Headquarters for the Rawlins County Historical Society. The museum hours are 9am-12pm and 1pm-4pm weekdays. The museum is also open most Saturday afternoons during the Summer months.
In Oberlin, our Last Indian Raid Museum, is a tribute to Prairie Life. Visit the past by entering the one-room country school, an 1885 R.R. Depot & Jail, or a sod house and tack room.
The Landmark Inn in Oberlin is a beautifully restored Victorian building that is both a gathering place and a bed and breakfast. Click on the link for more information about this interesting building.
Station 15, in Norton County, is a replica of a early stagecoach station equipped with period furnishings, is in a roadside park beside highway 36. Buffalo Bill, Billy the Kid, and Horace Greeley all passed through this stage depot.
Also in Norton, The Gallery of Also Rans on the mezzanine of the First State Bank features photos and biographies of unsuccessful candidates for president. Visit this unusual attraction that was selected as one of the finalists in the 8 Wonders of Kansas Customs. The First State Bank is located at 105 W. Main.
In the spring of 1873, the Army sent word from Fort Hays that an attack by Apaches was imminent. Phillipsburg’s Fort Bissell was hastily built but it was never needed. Old Fort Bissell, now located in a Phillipsburg park, offers a visit to a frontier community.
The Dane G. Hansen museum in Logan annually hosts exhibits from around the country including the Smithsonian Institution. The Museum is recognized as one of the best in the state of Kansas.
The Geographic Center of the USA is located one mile north and one mile west of Lebanon, Kansas in Smith County. This is the center of the USA as determined by the government geodetic survey in 1898. Built around it is Center Park, a place for the public to stop, relax, and picnic.
The Home on the Range Higley Cabin located in Smith County was the homestead cabin of Dr. Brewster M. Higley, a homesteading doctor from Ohio who wrote the words for the song, Home on the Range. That song was later adopted as the state song of Kansas in 1947. The song was set to music by Dan Kelley of Gaylord, Kansas. The cabin is located on the Beaver Creek nine miles north and one mile west of the K-8/U.S. 36 Junction.
The Old Dutch Mill, located in Smith Center, was moved there in 1938 from its original site near Reamsville, northwest of Smith Center. The old mill was built by Charles Schwarz, a native of Germany who homesteaded in Smith County in the 1870’s. Today the Mill serves as a meeting place for many groups and events. The Mill is located near downtown Smith Center.
Ingleboro Mansion is an elegant turn-of-the-century Victorian home that has served the community as the residence of a wealthy banker, a hospital, a nursing home, a restaurant, and now a Bed and Breakfast. The mansion is located at 319 N. Main in Smith Center.
Highway 24 Counties
Established in 1959, the High Plains Museum in Goodland, is owned and operated by the City of Goodland. In 1979 an addition was added to the building in order to house a full-sized, automated replica of America’s First Patented Helicopter. The original craft was invented and built by W.J. Purvis and C.A. Wilson of Goodland in 1909.
The Giant Van Gogh sunflower painting on the south side of Goodland stands as a testament to Goodland as the “High Plains Sunflower Capital.”
The Thomas County Courthouse, built in 1906, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The architecture is in Renaissance Revival style and features extensive period woodwork. The “Spirit of the Prairie” statue and war memorial grace the front lawn.
Cooper BarnEnjoy an international collection of rare dolls, porcelain, glass, antiques and artifacts in the Prairie Museum of Art & History. In addition to an overview of Thomas County history, the complex includes a furnished sod house, 1930’s farm stead, one-room school, and country church. The centerpiece of the complex is the Cooper Barn, the biggest barn in Kansas. It was moved 16 miles in one piece and measures 114′ x 66′ x 48′. It houses photographs, antique implements and vehicles. The cavernous upper level is used for dances and activities and is open to visitors so they may experience the immensity of this historic barn.
Cottonwood Ranch, located 15 miles east of Hoxie on Highway 24, was purchased by the Kansas Historical Society in 1982. The Ranch was established in the late 1800’s and was started by Fenton Pratt who emigrated from England. The Cottonwood Ranch, originally a sheep ranch, can provide a chance to observe an important segment of Kansas Historical Heritage.
Mickey’s Museum, donated by Vernon Mickey of Hoxie, is operated by the Sheridan County Historical Society. This museum covers generations of Sheridan County history through household articles, clothing, photographs, farming tools, local business items, and much, much more. An authentic one-room school house also rests on museum grounds. Located two blocks east of the Highway 23 and 24 intersection, the museum is open to the public by appointments made through the Sheridan County Historical Society office.
In July, 1877, Negro “Exodusters” from Kentucky established a settlement here in the Promised Land of Kansas which they named Nicodemus. Although the colonists lacked sufficient tools, seed and money, they managed to survive the first winter, some by selling buffalo bones, others by working for the Kansas Pacific Railroad at Ellis, 35 miles away. In 1880 the all-Negro community had a population of more than 400. On November 12, 1996, Nicodemus, located in eastern Graham County, became a National Historical site, mostly due to untiring efforts of Senator Bob Dole.
The Oil Patch Museum on the west side of Hill City, gives a glimpse of some of the machinery used to make the Graham County area a leading producer of oil.
Webster Reservoir and State Park is located 7 miles west of Stockton on Highway 24 or10 miles north of Zurich on Highway 258 from K-18. The 3,780 acre lake has campgrounds, picnic areas, swimming, volleyball courts, shower houses, shelters, hiking trails, boat ramps, fish cleaning station, electric hookups, and much more.
St. Joseph’s Church in Damar is a beautiful example of classic Romanesque design and is a glowing example of the importance that early settlers to Rooks County placed on religion. The church had it’s first mass celebrated in 1917. Today, Damar holds annual events to provide funds for the continued restoration and upkeep of the church.
Interstate 70 Counties/Highway 40
Post Rock Scenic Byway – One of the prettiest drives in Kansas, the Post Rock Scenic Byway runs on Highway 232 north from Interstate 70 at the Wilson Exit, north to Lucas in Russell County. Take Hwy 232 north across the beautiful Wilson Lake all the way to Lucas, home of the Garden of Eden and the Grassroots Arts Center. For more information visit www.ksbyways.org.
Smoky Valley Scenic Byway – Whether your preference is enjoying the natural beauty of wildflowers, the picturesque vista of windmills, or the beauty of limestone bluffs, the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway will provide you with a beautiful glimpse of western Kansas. The byway travels an out and back route from WaKeeney on Interstate 70, south to Ransom on U.S. 283, east to Brownell on K-4, and then north past Cedar Bluff Reservoir on K-147. For more information visit www.ksbyways.org.
Western Vistas Historic Byway – Traveling Highway 40? What a perfect opportunity to discover the rich history and scenic beauty of the first historic byway in Kansas. The byway links three western Kansas counties stretching over 102 miles. It features six museums plus twelve historic and scenic sites. The byway runs north from Scott City to Oakley ( US 83), then west to Sharon Springs (US 40) and can be traveled from either direction with many stops between these cities. Along this route are side trips including Lake Scott State Park (Hwy 95) and Russell Springs (Hwy 25). Attraction details and event information at www.westernvistashistoricbyway.com.
Land & Sky Scenic Byway – Travelers along this byway in western Kansas have the opportunity to experience the Wallace Branch of the Great Western Cattle Trail, scale the highest point in Kansas at Mount Sunflower and explore the deep canyons and rugged landscape of the Arikaree Breaks. The byway is also the only one in the state that focuses on agriculture and features thousands of acres of rotating crops, livestock and wildlife along the route. The byways traverses Kansas Highway 27 from the Nebraska border near St. Francis, south through Goodland and to Sharon Springs. For more information, go to the website at www.landandskyscenicbyway.com or to their Facebook page.
An integral part of Logan County history can be found in the Fick Fossil and History Museum in Oakley. The Museum is listed among the 25 Great Museums in the U.S. Fossils dug by the renowned paleontologist George F. Sternberg are among the many displays.
Rising majestically from the seemingly flat prairie, just 25 miles south of Oakley are the Monument Rocks, the first national natural landmark in Kansas. These wind-carved, water-eroded chalk formations are sediment remains of ancient marine life up to 200 million years old.
Castle Rock, a chalk pinnacle, rises from the prairie 20 miles southeast of Quinter. The area is a fossil hunter’s paradise. Monument Rocks and Castle Rock were selected as one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas. If you travel to these ancient rock beds, please remember that you are on private property and treat the formations with respect.
Kansas’ newest state park may very well be it’s most spectacular. Little Jerusalem State Park, acquired by The Nature Conservancy, is an amazing collection of chalk outcroppings in Logan County, west of U.S. Highway 83. In the late 19th century, it was said to resemble the ruins of many castles, thus “Castle City.” Some say that it got the name “Little Jerusalem” or “New Jerusalem” because from a distance it looks like the ancient walled city of Jerusalem. Most of the locals and geologists know it by the name of Little Jerusalem. In partnership with Kansas Dept. of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism, the site has been designated as Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park.
Rhea’s Pump Organ Museum in Sharon Springs holds one of the largest collections of reed organs in existence, with nearly 60 magnificently-restored organs on display. This museum is located at 117 N. Main Street and is open by appointment with owner Dick Rhea. He can be reached at 785-852-4951 or 785-821-1101. See more at http://rhea-antique-pump-organs.com.
The Fort Wallace Museum is located near mile marker 26 just east of Wallace, Kansas, and features exhibits on the history of the Butterfield Overland Despatch Stagecoach Line, the Smoky Hill Trail and the early Indian Wars outpost of Fort Wallace. See the 40-foot cast of the elasmosaurus platyurus fossil found nearby by the Fort surgeon in 1867, as well as representations of historic buildings in the new Milford Becker addition. More information and history available at www.ftwallace.com or at ‘Fort Wallace Museum’ on Facebook. The Fort Wallace Museum is open year-round; Mon -Sat 9-5, Sun 1-5. Admission is free!
The Fort Wallace Cemetery holds is the only visible remains of the original military post. Carved wooden headstones tell the tale of those who died of violence and disease. See the obelisk erected by Custer’s Seventh Cavalry in memory of comrades who died in the bloody summer of 1867. Visit the grave of the German family, who died at the hand of the Southern Cheyenne in 1874. Located 1 mile south and 1 mile east of Highway 40 near mile marker 27; follow the signs. Open dawn to dusk year round.
The Trego County Historical Society Museum, along with the recent addition of a one-room country school house, is located on the Trego County Fairgrounds. There is a vast collection of pioneer possessions on display. The old safe from the office of the Trego County Treasurer, which was installed there in 1901, was given to the historical society in February 1989.
Sternberg Museum of Natural History – 3000 Sternberg Drive in Hays.
Open at its new location you will discover a recreated day 88 million years ago when the mighty T-Rex haunted the land and Kansas was covered by water. See animated life-sized dinosaurs, giant sea swimming lizards and fish, the famous fish-within-a-fish fossil in the unique walk through diorama. Children will enjoy learning at their own pace in the hands-on Discovery Room. The changing exhibit gallery features world-class traveling exhibits on natural history. Call (785) 628-4286 for times and admission fees.
Historic Old Fort Hays is located on US-183 Alternate four miles south of I-70. Fort Hays was established in 1867 to protect the construction workers who were building the Union Pacific Railroad. The original blockhouse, guardhouse, and officer quarters are located here as well as exhibits interpreting pioneer and military and “Wild West” history. The museum is open year round. Phone (785) 625-6812.
Gernon House–First “post rock” stone home built in Russell. Restored at 818 N Kansas Street, Russell. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day, Saturday and Sunday, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., or by appointment. Phone 785.483.3637 or 785.483.6960. Free admission.
Oil Patch Discovery Center–The story of people and events covering the discovery of “Black Gold” can be found here. Located in Russell near the intersection of I-70 and South Highway 281. Open daily from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
The world famous Garden of Eden in Lucas (Russell County) was built in the early 1900’s by S.P. Dinsmoor, a Civil War veteran. The Garden is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and can be viewed daily. Phone 785-525-6395 or click on the link above for the website.
The City of Lucas is designated as the Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas. The Grassroots Art Center is home to the Inez Marshall Limestone Sculpture collection along with grassroots artwork by local artist and traveling exhibits. New is the Post Rock Courtyard that shows examples of the how the limestone was used for building by early settlers.