Western Trips

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Drive the 13 Mile Scenic Byway in Southern Kansas

Kansas has a good number of byways. Out of the eleven byways, eight are scenic, two of these have the distinction of being National Scenic Byways and three are historic byways. Kansas has the distinction of being the first state to completely pave their segment of old Route 66. Hosting only thirteen miles of this historic highway gave the state a bit of an advantage to achieve that goal. 

kansas route 66 sign
The 13 Miles in the Southeastern Corner of Kansas

When you drive the route which runs through Galena, Riverton and Baxter Springs in Cherokee County Kansas you're driving a Kansas Scenic Byway which runs along a thirteen mile stretch of US Hwy 66, better known perhaps as the famous and historic Route 66. The Kansas segment of this highway runs along the Ozark Plateau in the southeastern corner of the state and passes through the towns of Galena, Riverton and Baxter Springs. .

Although Kansas has the shortest stretch of the popular old route between Chicago, Illinois and Santa Monica, California, the 13 miles of Route 66 in Kansas are among the best preserved.
The three towns mentioned above all offer interesting trip stops  All three towns give you a glimpse of the history of Kansas.

Galena, KS

galena kansas museum route 66
Galena Museum inside old train station
The old buildings found in Galena, KS are among the top Route 66 Kansas attractions. Some of these structures have been restored or are in a stage of restoration. Several of the older Galena buildings found along Kansas Route 66 helped to inspire the "Radiator Springs" town in the Disney Pixar film, Cars.

 Among these you'll want to make note of is the 1920s KanOtex Station. Today, the old service station is named "Cars on the Route and sells sandwiches, snacks, antiques, Route 66 and Car's items, including several made by local craftspeople and artists.

Before you get to Galena proper, you'll drive past an old smelting plant that was in operation between 1912 and the late 1970s.When in Galena also make it a point to drop by the Galena Mining and Historical Museum.

Riverton, KS

Driving into Riverton, you'll pass the Empire District Electric Company which was built over the years 1890-1910. This is one of the oldest apportioning power plants in the nation.

Also, look for the waterfall that's over the Empire District Electric Company's Power Dam. You can get a good view of it from the Highway 107 bridge.

Another popular attraction is the Rainbow Bridge. The Rainbow Bridge is located about two miles west of Riverton along the former US Hwy 66. The bridge is a concrete single lane structure and is noted for being the last surviving bridge of this type along the entire length of old Route 66. Today the road going over the bridge is a county road.

Baxter Springs, KS 

As you travel in a southwesterly direction from Riverton on Kansas Route 66 you'll come to the last Kansas town before entering Oklahoma. The town is Baxter Springs.

kansas route 66 visitors center
KS Route 66 Visitors Center, Courtesy NPS
If you're looking for an historic building in Baxter Springs once operated as a bank that in 1876 was robbed by Jesse James and Cole Younger, look no further. Today you can actually stay there as it's now a cafĂ© and a small bed and breakfast inn. The B & B is  named The Little Brick Inn located at 1101 Military Ave. The cafe and inn are owned by the same people. The inn is on the second floor and offered are both standard and parlor rooms.

Also in Baxter Springs is a Phillips 66 Gas Station that was constructed in the 1930s. The station operated first as Independent Oil and Gas and later Phillips Petroleum.  In 2003, the National Park Service listed the service station in the National Register of Historic Places, and the heritage society purchased the building. Today, the building operates as the Kansas Route 66 Visitor Center located on the north end of the commercial district.

Below are links to additional Western Trips article you may enjoy..... 

Killdeer Mountain Four Bears Scenic Byway

Idaho's Sawtooth Scenic Byway 

Visit Fort Sill Oklahoma

Kansas Route 66 Events 

If you're going to promote this historic highway you need an association. Kansas has such an association called the  Kansas Historic Route 66 Association located in Riverton. This association is a non-profit
dedicated to the preservation and promotion of "Route 66" in Kansas.

Among annual events is the Route 66 Festival, an Art and Craft Show in Galena. The 66-Mile Cruise  beginning at the Phillips 66 Station in Baxter Springs and ending at Cars on the Route in Galena.  Both of these events are held during the summer.

For up to date information about KS Route 66 events and festivals, you may ant to see website.....http://kshistoricroute66.com/  When dates are announced for events you should be able to see them on this site. 

(Article copyright Western Trips. Rainbow Bridge photo courtesy Abe Ezekowitz,  CC License 3.0. Galena Museum photo courtesy waymarking.com)