Unique Places in Kansas

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Most Viewed Off The Beaten Path in Kansas

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    BIG BRUTUS

    by basstbn Updated Aug 11, 2010

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    ONE OF THE 8 WONDERS OF KANSAS COMMERCE

    In the 1960s, coal mining was a major source of income in southeastern Kansas. They just scraped the dirt and rocks off of the coal deposits and scooped it out from the surface. Big Brutus was brought in to handle the job of removing the "overburden" layered above the coal. Its giant scoop could bring out 150 tons at a time - enough to fill three railroad cars. When the coal deposits were no longer worth mining, Big Brutus simply became one of Kansas' largest curiosities - it was too expensive to move. You can walk through the "shovel", pause to have your photo taken in the scoop, or when the wind isn't blowing too hard, climb the steps to the top of the boom 160 feet in the air.

    This weird attraction is located near West Mineral, Kansas. 6 miles west of K7 and K102 junction, then 1/4 mile south.

    See more photos at my West Mineral, Kansas, page. More helpful information and photos can be found at the Kansas Sampler Foundation's 8 Wonders of Kansas page at: www.kansassampler.org/8wonders/8wondersofkansas-view.php?id=20

    Look closely at scoop to see visitors Full-size tractor and shovel in front of BB Bottom Wheels are 6 feet in diameter! Inside the cavernous Big Brutus gets lots of visitors
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    Post Rock Scenic Byway

    by basstbn Updated Aug 11, 2010

    On a recent autumn weekend, I led a group of retired friends on a two-day outing of north central Kansas. One of the areas that most surprised and delighted my co-travelers was the Post Rock Scenic Byway running from the old Czech settlement past Lake Wilson to Lucas, the Grassroots Art Capital. Almost unanimously, they commented on their surprise at seeing the landscape of the Smoky Hills so few miles from the all-too familiar boredom of Interstate 70.

    The 18 mile route cuts through an area of limestone outcroppings and past the sandstone bluffs of Lake Wilson (a man-made reservoir). The early white settlers in the region (mostly Germans, Czechs, and Scandinavians) used the limestone as a building material and for fences. Hence the term Post Rock.

    The Post Rock Scenic Byway was one of the finalists for the selection as one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Geography. The 8 Wonders site contains additional information and photos at: www.kansassampler.org/8wonders/geography. I also recommend the official link for its excellent information.

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    The Vieux (or Vermillion) Crossing

    by basstbn Written Jul 30, 2010

    Sharp-eyed travelers in north east sections of Kansas will see numerous signs indicating that you are on or crossing the route of the Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails. These were the cross-country routes used by settlers headed for new settlements in the American west. Occasionally you will find a more significant trail location such as a river crossing or campground. The Vieux Crossing is one of these.

    Louis Vermillion's father was French, his mother Pottawatomie Indian. When the tribe was forceably relocated from their Indiana home, Louis and his family established a farmstead near the Vermillion River. When westward bound travelers began traversing their land, Louis built a toll bridge over the river, sold hay and other crucial supplies, and made himself a very rich man. In later years he became an influential member of the Pottawatomie, even representing his tribe in Washington, DC on occasion.

    The bridge and Vieux's farm buildings have disappeared. Still to be seen in the area is the Vieux family cemetery, the grave sites of settlers and soldiers killed by a cholera outbreak, and perhaps most interestingly - the remains of the Louis Vieux Elm. In 1979, this giant elm tree was judged to be the largest in the USA. A few years later, and before it could be destroyed by the rampaging Dutch Elm disease, the landmark tree was struck by lightning. A senseless act of vandalism then caused further damage. Members of the Pottawatomie County Historical Society then took steps to preserve remnants of this ancient tree.

    Louis Vieux Cemetery Louis Vieux Grave Marker (tallest monument) Louis Vieux Elm, soldier grave markers Site of grave markers, cholera victims Grave marker, (weathered, difficult to read)
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    Monument Rocks & Castle Rock, Gove County

    by basstbn Updated Jul 28, 2010

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    ONE OF THE 8 WONDERS OF KANSAS!

    Monument Rocks (western Gove County and sometimes referred to as the Chalk Pyramids) and Castle Rock (eastern Gove County) rise starkly from the gentle rolling prairie of western Kansas. These ancient chalk beds have yielded significant fossil finds dating to the Cretaceous period of geologic history, about 80 million years ago. Generations of nomadic plains Indian tribes used these formations as navigational landmarks, as did later arriving European explorers and settlers.

    Even Kansas visiting these chalk formations for the first time are amazed, usually commenting they had no idea such a place existed in their home state. These sites are situated on private land, but the owners have long been willing to allow public access. Of course you should always be respectful of the land, nearby cattle herds etc.

    Note - You will be traveling dirt roads to reach each of these monuments. In the (rare) case of heavy rains, it would be advisable to consider postponing or canceling your visit.

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    Pillsbury Crossing

    by basstbn Written Jul 28, 2010

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    Located in a scenic area of the northern Flint Hills in Riley County, Pillsbury Crossing is a natural, flat rock crossing on Deep Creek, named after one of the area's early (1855) settlers. It had long been used by pre-settlement white explorers and travelers, and of course plains Indians before that.

    It is now a very popular recreation spot when the weather is suitable, especially for students from nearby Kansas State University (Manhattan). Thanks to the vast expanse of shallow water on a level and relatively smooth rock base, you may see a number of vehicles parked in the creek, young folks tossing (American) footballs and discs, dogs romping about, and even grills loaded with burgers or hot dogs right there in the creek.

    You might think this could be a wild scene with college kids, booze, drugs, etc. I have never witnessed this. The atmosphere is convivial, and oldsters like myself and people with kiddies seem to be welcomed by the younger crowd. The area is owned by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, and I have seen park rangers on patrol each time I have been there.

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    Cimarron National Grasslands

    by basstbn Updated Jul 4, 2010

    No county was more severely effected by the devastating Dust Bowl years than Morton County in the very southwestern corner of Kansas. Barely a decade after farmers had begun growing wheat in the desolate region, drought and unwise cultivation and cattle grazing practices turned the land into a sea of blowing sand. Congress bought out the bankrupt farmers, and in 1938, the U.S. Conservation Service began restoring the native prairie. In 1954, the National Forestry Service assumed management of the grasslands, of which 108,175 acres of shortgrass prairie and sandsage prairie became the Cimarron National Grasslands in 1960.

    Wildlife in the area include elk, pronghorn antelope, deer, turkeys, coyotes, prairie dogs, rattlesnakes, and numerous species of birds.

    23 miles of the Cimarron Cut-off of the Santa Fe Trail traverse the Grasslands, and in many spots the wagon ruts are still plainly visible.

    Amenities include walking trails, guided auto tour, primitive camping, fishing ponds. Administered by the National Forestry Service.

    Point of Rocks Three states meet here: Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado Sand and sage brush Prickly Pear Cactus in bloom
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    The Waterfalls at Chase State Fishing Lake

    by basstbn Updated May 1, 2010

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    These waterfalls are so off-the-beaten-path that few Kansans know they exist, even folks from the nearby town of Cottonwood Falls. The park with its clear blue lake is popular with fishermen, bird-watchers, and photographers aware of these falls (an usual sight in Kansas).

    The man-made lake and falls are located in the Flint Hills of Chase County, Kansas, a couple of miles west of Cottonwood Falls.

    Middle Falls The Upper Falls Closer view of middle falls
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    Get Your Kicks on Route 66!

    by basstbn Written Feb 25, 2010

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    Get your kicks on Route 66, but not for long. The legendary, iconic old Chicago to LA highway passed through Kansas, but only for 13 miles between the Missouri and Oklahoma borders. Route 66 fanciers tend to agree that this short stretch is one of the best preserved pieces of the entire highway.

    My photos were taken in the Baxter Springs, Kansas, vicinity, but there are also interesting views of Route 66 in Galena and Riverton.

    Brush Creek Bridge, a single rainbow arch bridge Brush Creek Bridge, Natl Register Historic Places Remnant from the 60s (and before)
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    Rock City

    by basstbn Updated Feb 10, 2010

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    The road signs you see in central Kansas advertising Rock City give the impression that Rock City is little more than one of your typical, schlocky, roadside tourist traps. I am pleased to report that it is more than that. In fact this site is significant enough to be designated a National Natural Landmark.

    Surrounded by the rolling, expansive Kansas prairie, Rock City consists of approximately 200 rounded boulders, calcite-cemented concretions, popularly called "cannonball concretions." The largest of these are 27 feet (approximately 8 meters) in diameter. Guests are free to walk amongst the formations. The park has a visitor center and picnic tables. This is not a state or city park, but is owned and maintained by a non-profit organization which charges a small entry fee.

    Location: 3.6 miles south of Minneapolis, Kansas, half a mile west of Kansas Highway 106 on Ivy Road. It's also an easy little side-trip from Salina and US Interstate 70.

    Close-up view of cannonball concretion
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    Mushroom Rocks State Park

    by basstbn Updated Nov 9, 2009

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    A rarely visited and peaceful spot on the prairie. Kansas' smallest state park, only five acres, contains a number of these mushroom-shaped concretions - sandstone and sedimentary rock held together by natural concrete. Picnic tables and restrooms, no water or other services.

    Prairie landscape surrounding rock formations
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    Alcove Spring on the Oregon Trail

    by basstbn Written Jun 25, 2009

    Emigrants on the trail destined for Oregon wrote of this spot's beauty and serenity. A few contemplated ending their journey here, only six days after crossing into Kansas Territory. Some groups, including the ill-fated Donner-Reed Party, had to camp here for several days after rains swelled the nearby Big Blue River beyond its banks making it impassable. But eventually they moved on. Settlement would not come to the region for several more years.

    Little is left from those visitors. A few travelers carved names and dates into rocks and trees. One 70 year woman in the Donner party, Sarah Keys, died of illness while camped here and was buried. Her actual burial site is not known, but a Daughters of the American Revolution monument honors her memory.

    Admittedly there is little to see here in the way of relics or artifacts - although some of the wagon ruts (known as swales) are still visible in some spots. But it is interesting and worthwhile to view the location, and to better understand the rigors of the westward march. It is also a beautiful area - especially in springtime when the wildflowers are in bloom and water is flowing over the ledge.

    Located in Marshall County north of Blue Rapids, Kansas. On National Register Historic Places #72000513; added to list in 1972.

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    Big Basin

    by Astrobuck Written Sep 9, 2008

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    Although you drive through it, Big Basin is truly off the beaten path. It was formed thousands of years ago by collapsing gypsum and salt formations several hundred feet below the surface.

    It may not seem like much, but it does boast to have the most striking butte/mesa topography unlike any other in Kansas.

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    The Arikaree Breaks

    by basstbn Written Jan 16, 2008

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    In the far northwestern corner of the state in Cheyenne County, near the Colorado and Nebraska state lines is a remarkable site few Kansans have visited, or are even aware of - the Arikaree Breaks. The remote and rugged landscape of the Arikaree Breaks includes canyons and ravines, wildlife and plant life far different from that seen in most areas of the state, perhaps resembling areas of Wyoming or New Mexico. These canyonlands are in privately owned land, not a state park, so one must settle for viewing them from the county-maintained dirt roads.

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    The Clements Stone Bridge

    by basstbn Written Sep 3, 2007

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    Stone has always been available in huge quantities in Chase County. So when it came time to build a bridge across the Cottonwood River south of Clements, it was natural to construct it of that commodity. This 127 foot long double arch bridge (no longer open to auto traffic) was built it 1886 or 1888, depending on your source of information, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

    It is located just south of the unincorporated village (or ghost town) of Clements, easily accessed from US Hwy 50.

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    Sedan, Kansas

    by basstbn Written Feb 8, 2007

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    A small town in southeastern Kansas located in hill country. Follow the yellow brick road past art and antique stores to a museum dedicated to world famous clown, Emmett Kelly. Take a shady stroll through Hollow Park. Visit the 8,000 acre Red Buffalo Ranch owned by newsman Bill Kurtis. Sedan is one of the state's most charming little towns. My personal connection to Sedan - my parents met there in 1940, and I have visited kinfolk there many times. I'm so glad to see this town flourishing when so many have fallen on hard times.

    Downtown Sedan Follow the yellow brick road... Emmett Kelly Museum Old country school house in Hollow Park Chautauqua County Courthouse
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Kansas Off The Beaten Path

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