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Lucky 13 Unusual Scenes in Northeast Kansas

 



Looking for a day trip? Ken Locke a long time Wolfe's staff member has outlined 13 interesting photo opportunities within an easy drive of Topeka. Grab your camera and find some off the beaten path fun.

Moving Murals

Traveling a few miles North on 77 to Highway 36, we come to Marysville. It is home to several historic sites, but the Lifetiles Murals are a new attraction most people are not aware of yet. They remind you of the old plastic kids cards where the image moved as you turned them, but these are on a much larger and elaborate scale. Presently only two of the murals are completed. Funding is being raised to create the third one to complete the display. The two present murals are featuring the Pony Express and the Union Pacific Railroad, both of which have played a part in the history of Marysville. Below is a the view of the Union Pacific Mural. There is no other artwork of this kind in Kansas. It is produced by Boston, Mass. Artist Rufus Seder. Each mural is 4 feet high and 10 feet long. They are in the Pony Express Plaza, West of the Pony Express Rider statue in Downtown Marysville at 7th and Center.

 

Alcove Springs

Getting into details on each stop, we go to #1, Alcove Springs. Being from California and where the Donner Party was stranded, I was particularly fascinated by Alcove Springs. The springs were already a familiar campsite for travelers and indians long before the Donner Party came. General John C. Fremont stopped there with his 1842 exploring expedition. Thousands of emigrants camped at or near the springs waiting to cross the Blue River. Near Alcove Springs is an overlook for Independence Crossing where many of the parties crossed. The Donner-Reed Party laid over there for about a week in late May of 1846 due to flooding on the Blue. The springs is supposed to have been given it’s name by Edwin Bryant of the Donner-Reed Party. They also named the falls after a young member of the party, it is the Naomi Pike Falls. To find Alcove Springs take Hwy 77 out of Blue Springs North 4 miles, then turn West just before reaching the gypsum plant and go 6 miles on a good gravel road to the springs. There are signs of where to turn just before reaching the gypsum plant. Unfortunately, I can’t locate my pictures taken when there was a beautiful flow of water over the rocks here, and despite being spring when the springs are supposed to be flowing, this last April the falls was dry. There is a small spring that flows year around that was flowing to the left of the falls location. There is an enjoyable, scenic walk to the springs, and further hiking trails if you choose.

 

Shoe Tree

Leaving Marysville on Hwy 36 we go to Seneca. Just East of Seneca we go down 63 to 9 and across hwy 9 almost to Wetmore. On W road, which is paved, go North 5 miles to the old Davis Road sign, then 1 mile west on 80th, which is gravel. At the intersection of 80th and V roads there is a tree with hundreds of shoes on it, as you see in my picture here. The sign at the base of the tree tells that John Kissel, the owner, grew up playing under this tree and it is now about 23 feet in circumference. He notes there are shoes on it from as far away as Arizona, but I would not be surprised if they haven’t come from even further but just no one mentioned it.

 

Davis Memorial

What do you do with your money if you don’t want your heirs to get it. Build a incredible Italian Marble memorial at the nearby cemetery. This is one of the theories behind this creation which is fascinating to see. Davis Memorial is located in Hiawatha, which is on Hwy 36 around 11 miles east of Hwy 75. It is 1/2 mile east of town on Iowa Street at Mount Hope Cemetery. It was erected as a memorial to his wife, Sarah, who died in 1930. It contains 11 life size statues depicting stages in John and Sarah’s lives. It includes a vacant chair indicating Sarah’s death. It is one of the most remarkable cemetery memorials in the country.

 

4 State View

It’s not 4 corners, where you stand at 4 states together, but you can see 4 states at one time from this overlook at White Cloud in the far North East corner of Kansas. If you are coming from Hiawatha, take 36 east to 7, and 7 North to White Cloud. You will turn back West at Main Street to a sign pointing North to the 4 State Lookout. A footbridge, shown with the signs here, takes you up to where you can view the 4 states. Iowa is a ways off, but the other 3: Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska are easily viewed from here.

 

Black Jack

Was the first shot of the Civil War fired at Fort Sumter in 1861? Many Kansas feel that it began 5 years earlier in “bleeding Kansas” with the Battle of Blackjack. There were other sackings, attacks and raids, but none were battles to this time. Kerry Altenbrand is quoted in the April 11, 2011 Capital Journal as saying the Battle of Blackjack “was the first regular battle” of the war. No one was killed at Blackjack, but several fighters were severely injured. However, Altenbrand noted that no one was killed at Fort Sumter either. To find Blackjack, go East of Baldwin on Hwy 56 to E2000 Road. At the East of the intersection is an Historical Marker about the Battle of Blackjack. Go about 1/3 mile down E2000 Road to the park that includes the battlefield where the Battle of Blackjack was fought. With the celebration of 150 years of Statehood for Kansas, there has been some work done to spruce up the area a bit to make it more attractive to hike around and see the historic site. The official complete title for the site, as you can read on my photos, is Robert Hall Pearson Memorial Park, Site of Battle of Blackjack.

 

Moon Marble

Take a trip to your childhood in Bonner Springs at the Moon Marble Company. It is located at 600 E. Front Street, which runs along the South side of town. The highlight of your visit will be seeing a marble actually made while you watch, as shown below. They have all sorts of marbles for sale, plus many retro toys. I saw toys there from my childhood I don’t recall seeing available anywhere else.

 

Oregon Trail

From Topeka, head West on Hwy 24 past St. Mary’s almost to Belvue . Two miles East of Belvue there is a sign telling you to turn North on Schoeman Road to go to the Oregon Trail Nature Park. You go 1/2 mile North on Schoeman Road and 1/4 mile West on Oregon Trail Road. The park will be very recognizable by the large painted Silo with 3 historical murals on it. It has a very nice shelter house with nice restrooms if you want to reserve it for a picnic—or just stop and eat your lunch in the beautiful outdoors if it is not being used for someone’s party. The hiking trails vary in difficulty. A short one to a nearby pond even I with my arthritis can handle. They have benches at regular intervals for that short hike, I can’t speak for the other trails.

 

Boothill Road

Take hwy 99 South from I70 (or if you are on Hwy 24, out of Wamego) to Alma. About 2 miles South of Alma you will find the well known Skyline Drive. Head back East on Skyline 7.5miles to another gravel road, nice, but not as nice as Skyline Drive, called Boothill Road. Sounds like it got lost from Dodge City, but there is a reason for the name. Turn North and eventually you will see several sections of fence with old boots on them. And why do we put boots on the top of fence posts? I went on the internet and found a variety of answers, none that satisfied me. The closest I found acceptable was just tradition to put out your old boots that way, also possibly to protect fence posts from rot of water seeping down them. As beat up as the boots are, I find it less likely that they are the boots of a deceased relative or farmhand. You will see the fence with boots on it just before you get to Snokomo Road, which will take you back to I-70. You can do the reverse and take Snokomo Road at Exit 335 off I-70 and go 3 miles to Boothill Road then at Skyline Drive either head back East towards Hwy 4 or West to Alma.

Another place I have seen the boots on posts, if my notes are correct, is on a fence on Onaga road North of Onaga.

 

Vermillion Arch

For the Arch Bridge take Hwy 24 to St. Mary’s and up North on 63 past Emmett to Aiken Switch Road. Turn West 6 1/4 miles to Day Road, which will be gravel, where there should be a sign to Arch Bridge. Follow Day Road 1 1/4 miles North, at the T go East for 3/4 mile and that takes you to Vermillion Creek Arch Bridge. The bridge was built in 1870. The use of local stone and local labor made each of the arch bridges unique. This bridge is 44 feet long and 15 feet wide. There is a nice sidewalk leading down to provide a good view of the bridge, which I used to get down for this photo.

 

Pillsbury Crossing

Head South out of Wamego or North off I70 on 99 to Hwy 18, also called Zeandale Road . At Wabaunsee, an interesting side trip is South several blocks to the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church. Follow Hwy 18 to Zeandale. Turn South on Tabor Valley Road. The road will change from pavement to gravel about the time you reach Pillsbury Crossing Road. Turn West on Pillsbury Crossing Road. Pillsbury Crossing and Barr Cabin are not necessarily well marked from the road. It may be labeled Pillsbury Crossing Lane. If you reach a stop sign at Pleasant Valley Road, you missed the turn off. Turn back, I think it will probably be the only road turning South when you come from the West. The crossing is a large native limestone rock layer that makes the crossing. It has been used to cross Deep Creek from pre-settlement times. You can still drive across it except in high water. The large rock beyond the crossing is a favorite hangout for students at Kansas State University in nice weather. We drove by it on a weekend last spring, one of our first warm weekends, and the rock was loaded with vehicles and people, more than I had ever seen before. At the end of the rock, the water flowing off creates beautiful falls, about 6 feet high according to Kansas Sampler Foundation information from the internet. I always thought they looked more like 3-4 feet high, but they still make beautiful pictures. It was named for Josiah Hobart Pillsbury. He was a member of the Topeka constitutional convention and Topeka legislature of 1856. In 1863 he moved to Manhattan where he died in 1879.

 

Barr Cabin

Back to Pillsbury Crossing Road. After passing the stop sign, start watching the North side of the road for the Barr Cabin sign. If you reach pavement, you went too far. Until I did research, I thought the cabin was no more than what the sign says, just an interesting old one-room wood cabin that had at one time been incorporated into a larger home. That alone makes it interesting to look at. A 2009 article in the Kansas State University Collegian quotes information from an Underground Railroad Tour led that year by Richard Pitts. The tour included “Chris Barr’s Cabin, which was believed to be a station on the underground railroad.” “The cabin had a small loft area where runaway slaves would get to through a faux cabinet that slaves would climb up the shelving to hide during the day. There was also a trap door in the floor.”

 

Flint Hills

Leaving Barr Cabin, go on to the paved road and turn South. It soon becomes gravel again and has the name “Deep Creek Road”. There are many nice drives in the Flint Hills, but I think of this one as one of the prettier and lesser know. South of I-70 you see the beautiful rolling hills and valley’s typical of the Flint Hills, just very undisturbed out this way, unless you count cattle as disturbances. Turn back East when you hit Old K-18. This leads back to Alma. About 5 miles before getting to Alma, near Gooseberry Road, you see several hills on the North side with gray porous rock instead of the usual flat limestone rock. At the Wabaunsee Museum I learned these are glaciated hills which accounts for the different rock type

Directions to Lucky 13 Unusual Scenes in Northeast Kansas

#1 To find Alcove Springs take Hwy 77 out of Blue Springs North 4 miles, then turn West just before reaching the gypsum plant and go 6 miles on a good gravel road to the springs.

#2 Marysville is easy to find on any map on Hwy 36. The Lifetiles Murals are in the western part of the downtown area at 7th and Center, and are in the same location as the statue of the Pony Express rider.

#3 Depending on the direction you come from, you can turn East off 63 at Corning or West off 75 at Netawaka on Hwy 9. Wetmore is the first town you see from Hwy 75, it is the next town after Goff coming from 63. West of Wetmore of take W road, which easy to identify since it is paved, go North 5 miles to the old Davis Road sign, the 1 mile west on 80th, which is gravel. At the intersection of 80th and V roads there is a the Shoe Tree.

#4 Davis Memorial is located in Hiawatha, 1/2 mile east of town on Iowa Street at Mount Hope Cemetery.

#5 From Hiawatha, take 36 east to Hwy 7, and 7 North to White Cloud. You will turn back West at Main Street. Going back West on Main you will see a sign pointing North to the 4 State Lookout.

#6 The Moon Marble Company is located at 600 E. Front Street in Bonner Springs. Front Street runs along the South side of town.

#7 To find Blackjack, go East of Baldwin on Hwy 56 to E2000 Road. At the East of the intersection is an Historical Marker about the Battle of Blackjack. Go about 1/3 mile down E2000 Road to the park that includes the battlefield where the Battle of Blackjack was fought.

#8 For the Oregon Trail Nature Park, from Topeka, you would head West on Hwy 24 past St. Mary’s almost to Belvue . Two miles East of Belvue there is a sign telling you to turn North on Schoeman Road to go to the Oregon Trail Nature Park. You go 1/2 mile North on Schoeman Road and 1/4 mile West on Oregon Trail Road and the park will be very recognizable by the large painted Silo with 3 historical murals on it

#9 To get to Vermillion Creek Arch Bridge, go to St. Mary’s and North on 63 past Emmett to Aiken Switch Road. Turn West 6 1/4 miles to the Day Road, which will be gravel, where there should be a sign to Arch Bridge. Follow Day Road 1 1/4 miles North, at the T go East for 3/4 mile and that takes you to Vermillion Creek Arch Bridge

#10 There are several ways to get to Pillsbury Crossing Wildlife Area, depending on whether you come from Topeka or from Manhattan. From Topeka, if you take Hwy 24 turn South out of Wamego on Hwy 99 or if you come on I-70 turn North off I-70 on 99. Turn west on Hwy 18, also called Zeandale Road . At Wabunsee, an interesting side trip is South several blocks to the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church. Follow Hwy 18 to Zeandale. Turn South on Tabor Valley Road. The road will change from pavement to gravel about the time you reach Pillsbury Crossing Road. Turn West on Pillsbury Crossing Road. Pillsbury Crossing and Barr Cabin are not necessarily well marked from the road. There was a very nice Historical Sign at the turn to Pillsbury Crossing, but apparently someone needed a big souvenir and stole it. It may be labeled Pillsbury Crossing Lane. If you reach a stop sign at Pleasant Valley Road, you missed the turn off. Turn back, I think it will probably be the only road turning South when you come from the West

Other choices, from the internet: From I-70 To get to Pillsbury Crossing from I-70, take exit 316 and go five miles north on Deep Creek Road. Turn right on Pillsbury Crossing Road approximately two miles to Pillsbury Crossing Lane. These are all dirt roads. From Manhattan: To get to Pillsbury Crossing from Manhattan, drive south on K-177 two miles to Deep Creek Road. Turn left and drive three miles to Pillsbury Crossing Road. Follow Pillsbury Crossing Road for two miles.

#11 Barr Cabin is also on Pillsbury Crossing Road. It is West of the stop sign at Pleasant Valley Road. Start watching the North side of the road for the Barr Cabin sign. If you reach pavement, you went too far. Coming from Manhattan, watch the North side of the road soon after you leave pavement and get on Pillsbury Crossing Road.

#12 There are many nice drives in the Flint Hills, but I think of this one as one of the prettier and lesser know. Coming from Pillsbury Crossing Road, take Deep Creek Road heading South. It soon turns to gravel. You can also get on Deep Creek Road from I-70, Exit 316, again go South. It is the last exit before Hwy 177. South of I-70 you hit the beautiful rolling hills and valley’s typical of the Flint Hills. Turn back East when you hit Old K-18. This leads to Alma through more beautiful rolling hills.

#13 From Alma, take hwy 99 heading South out of town. About 2 miles South you will find the well known Skyline Drive. Head back East on Skyline to another gravel road, nice, but not as nice as Skyline Drive, called Boothill Road. Turn North on Boothill Road and you will see a fence with boots on it before you get to Snokomo Road, which will take you back to I-70. You can do the reverse and take Snokomo Road at Exit 335 off I-70 to Boothill Road then at Skyline Drive either head back East towards Hwy 4 or West to Alma.