Get away in the state’s southwest region, where a free-range spirit fills old frontier towns and history sometimes hides underground.
A dozen designated Byways grace Kansas, the Sunflower State - nine are scenic (including two designated National Scenic Byways) and three are historic.Inexorable geologic shifts have shaped the state's landscape, forming a varied scenic backdrop for travellers. Visitors of all interests can trace the footsteps of great expedition teams and adventurers to see where history happened along these twelve distinctive routes. During the journey, there are museums large and small, quirky shops and local dining experiences to enjoy, along with hotels, motels and B&Bs to create happy memories.
MILITARY HISTORY + THE MOTHER ROAD
Among the Byways of Kansas are the Frontier Military Historic Byway - originally built to move soldiers and supplies and nowadays a repository of American history. Traveling from North to South, visitors encounter various landmarks such as Fort Leavenworth and Fort Scott, and other historical gems like the John Brown Museum. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Marais des Cygnes Massacre Park and Mine Creek Battlefield hold historical value from the turbulent times of "Bleeding Kansas" and the Civil War. Also along the route, hear legends and see monuments that memorialize history across the Kansas landscape.
Combining the Frontier Military with Kansas' Historic Route 66 Byway is a great way to head from Kansas City down into Oklahoma, and the latter offers opportunities for visitors to enjoy a variety of experiences and "get their own kicks" while driving the original Kansas portion of Route 66. Encompassing many of the original structures of "The Mother Road," including the only remaining Marsh Arch Bridge on Route 66, and the legendary Nelson's Old Riverton Store, the Route 66 Byway is short but packed with interest. It’s also a rich stretch on which to take memorable pictures - not least with the tow truck that was the inspiration for the character "Mater" from the "Cars" movie.
WETLANDS + WILDLIFE
Meanwhile, along the Wetlands & Wildlife National Scenic Byway visitors travel through Barton, Stafford, and Reno counties in central Kansas - where landscapes and communities have been shaped by the powerful forces of motion and change. This is a a region of stunning bird migrations and richly-layered human history. Everywhere here, there is evidence of motion and change from rippling wheat fields to the breathtaking spectacle of a hundred thousand shorebirds alighting in the Byway wetlands. The road moves through countryside exploding with wildlife; prairie vistas with immense blue skies; and seven rural communities shaped by nature and the entrepreneurial spirit. The marshes that anchor this drive, Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, are international treasures nestled in the heart of America and the Central Flyway.
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