Known as ‘The Wheat State’, for the volume of wheat grown and wheat flour milled, this Midwestern USA state is America’s heartland and rich in pioneer history. Kansas was named after the local Kansa First Nations tribe and means people of the south wind. The state’s other nicknames are the ‘Sunflower State’, because native sunflowers grow abundantly, and ‘Tornado Alley’ because of the number of tornadoes that rip through Kansas each year.
Kansas is also home to the first Pizza Hut store, the home state of Amelia Earhart, President Dwight D Eisenhower, Wyatt Earp, ‘Wild Bill’ Hickok and Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘If I went West, I think I would go to Kansas,” and if he had he would have found a treasure trove of landmarks in Kansas to enjoy. So head west and tick these Kansas landmarks off your to-see list.
- 20 Kansas Landmarks
- Famous Landmarks in Kansas
- Historical Landmarks in Kansas
- Natural Landmarks in Kansas
20 Kansas Landmarks
Famous Landmarks in Kansas
Cosmosphere is a space museum and education centre with one of the most extensive American and Russian space artifacts collections globally.
Since starting in 1962 as a Planetarium, it has evolved into a space education centre and museum.
Highlights include “Vengeance” weapons, the V-1 (“buzz bomb”) and V-2 rocket from Germany, the X-15 flight suit that Kansas Astronaut Joe Engle wore and Liberty Bell 7 Mercury spacecraft.
The Astronaut Experience showcases about 100 artifacts, such as a Russian Sokul Spacesuit, MIR Sleeping Bag and other items from the Russian MIR Space Station, International Space Station and shuttle program.
Interactive tours take about four hours and you could easily spend all day wandering around the exhibits, watching documentaries and live science shows.
Cosmosphere is at 1100 N Plum St, Hutchinson, KS 67501.
Strataca is an underground salt mine and museum with one of the world’s largest and deepest salt formations.
It opened in 1923 as a salt mine, reaching 198 m (650ft) deep, but wasn’t open to the public until the late 1990s.
The salt formations are over 275 million years old.
It’s the only mine in Kansas that you can go on a walking tour of the mine or a train ride. Tours take between two and four hours.
It takes you through a gallery of structures made out of salt, giving a brief history of the mine along the way.
You wear a hard hat during the tours and bring warm clothes as the temperatures underground get pretty chilly.
At the end of the tour, select a rock of your choice from the shop as a souvenir.
Strataca is at 3650 E Ave G, Hutchinson, KS 67501.
3- Big Well Museum
The Big Well Museum is a historic water well museum and one of the largest hand-dug wells in the world.
It was built in 1887 and served as a water supply to the railroad workers.
The well’s diameter is 32 ft (10 m) and is 109 ft (33 m)deep.
It opened in 1972, was destroyed in a tornado in 2007 and rebuilt and reopened in 2012.
Climb the steps to the bottom of the well to learn about the well’s history on a tour.
The visitor centre also houses a rare chunk of pallasite meteorite weighing over 453 kg (1,000 pounds), discovered in Greensburg and known as ‘The World’s Largest Pallasite Meteorite’.
Big Well Museum is at 315 S Sycamore St, Greensburg, KS 67054.
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4- Ball of Twine
The Ball of Twine is a giant ball of twine built by a community in the United States.
The ball began formation in 1953 by Frank Stoeber, and after his death, the community decided to keep adding more twine to it over the years slowly.
In 1973, Guinness World Records bestowed it the title of World’s Largest Ball of Twine.
The ball now contains around 2500 km (1600 miles) of twine – the distance between Kansas and San Francisco – that weighs over 13 tons.
You need to schedule a visit if you’d like to add to the twine so that sisal can be arranged for you to add to the ball.
In Cawker City, a path of twisty twine painted on the street sidewalks leads past several downtown storefronts, with windows showcasing famous painted artworks enhanced with twine balls.
The World’s Largest Ball of Twine is at 719 Wisconsin St, Cawker City, KS 67430.
5- Exploration Place
Exploration Place is a non-profit education centre, a science museum and a landmark of innovative architecture in Kansas.
It’s also known as the ‘Island Building’ as its futuristic design reshapes the edge of the river.
Inside the museum, which is about the human experience on earth, there are immersive exhibits on flight and space to stimulate the mind.
The Exploration Place is at 300 N McLean Blvd, Wichita, KS 67203.
Historical Landmarks in Kansas
6- Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum
The Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum is a tribute to Amelia Earhart, who made history as the first woman pilot to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.
Earhart was also the first pilot to fly between Hawaii and the US mainland on a solo flight.
The house was built in 1861 on the west bank of the Missouri River and became a historic site in 1971.
In 1984, the Ninety-Nines, an organisation of licensed women pilots, where Amelia was the first elected president, acquired the home and maintained it ever since.
Wander through the house to be inspired by Earhart’s incredible achievements and see her personal items.
The Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum is at 223 N Terrace St, Atchison, KS 66002.
7- Kansas State Capitol
The Kansas State Capitol houses the executive and legislative branches of the government of the state of Kansas.
Like many other US statehouses constructed in the 19th century, the architecture took inspiration from Europe and has Greek and Roman design elements.
Construction of this landmark began in 1866 and took 37 years and millions of dollars to complete.
The stone is brown sandstone sourced from Deer Creek in Shawnee County, Kansas.
The Kansas State Capitol is at SW 8th &, SW Van Buren St, Topeka, KS 66612.
8- Dwight D Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum & Boyhood Home
The Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum is one of 15 Presidential Libraries run by the National Archives and Records Administration.
These libraries aim to promote the public’s knowledge of the presidency, and the library in Kansas honours the 34th president of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Construction began in 1954 in Eisenhower’s hometown and took a couple of years to complete.
It’s an impressive research facility for historians and scholars, with 26 million pages of historical records and papers.
Access to the library is complimentary, while there’s a small fee to visit the museum and boyhood home, a charming 19th-century timber home occupied by Mrs Eisenhower until she passed away in 1946.
A bronze statue of Eisenhower portrays the president as a war commander wearing his recognisable World War II “Eisenhower Jacket.”
The Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Museum is at 200 S E 4th St, Abilene, KS 67410.
9- Chase County Courthouse
The Chase Country Courthouse was built in 1873 and is the oldest operating courthouse in Kansas.
It was constructed using local limestone and walnut trees along Flint Hills, giving visitors a scenic view.
The French Renaissance-style building has a distinctively shaped roof and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.
You can wander around on weekdays but will have to schedule an appointment to visit on weekends.
The Chase Country Courthouse is at 300 Pearl St, Cottonwood Falls, KS 66845.
10- Geographic Centre of the Contiguous United States
The Geographic Centre of the United States in Smith County is, just as the name suggests, the exact midpoint of the Contiguous States in the United States.
These states are the lower 48 States of America, and the point was determined by a survey done in 1918.
It was the geographic centre of the USA until Alaska and Hawaii joined in 1959, moving the geographic centre around 550 miles (885 km) away.
There isn’t much to do except sign the register showing you’ve been there and read notes of what other visitors said at this place.
The Geographic Centre of the United States is in Lebanon, KS 66952.
11- Keeper Of The Plains
The Keeper of the Plains is an impressive 13.4 m (44 ft) high steel sculpture created in 1974 by Native American artist Blackbear Bosin.
The statue stands where the Big and Little Arkansas rivers meet on sacred land that also houses the Mid-America All-Indian Museum.
In 2006, the statue was placed on the top of an artificial rock to give it a more prominent place.
You can visit it by crossing the suspension bridges. An excellent time to visit is at night when the Keeper takes on a mystical aura surrounded by fire pots known as the Ring of Fire.
The Keeper of the Plains is at 339 Veterans Pkwy, Wichita, KS 67203.
12- Mount Sunflower
At 4,039 feet (1,231 m), Mount Sunflower is the highest natural point in Kansas.
Ironically, it’s pretty close to the lowest point in Colorado.
Although on private property, the landowners are open to having visitors come over to view this iconic landmark of Kansas.
Mount Sunflower is at 2415 Road 3 Weskan, KS 67762.
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Natural Landmarks in Kansas
13- Monument Rocks
Monument Rocks was the first National Natural Landmark of Kansas in 1968.
Also known as Chalk Pyramids, these chalk formations reach up to 21 m (70 ft) high.
Natural buttes and arches were formed by carbonate deposits left during the Cretaceous Period when North America was split by the Western Interior Seaway 80 million years ago.
Like Mount Sunflower, the Monument Rocks are on private property, but the landowners are open to receiving visitors during daylight.
The Monument Rocks Natural Landmark is at Scott City, KS 67871.
14- Castle Rock
Castle Rock is a limestone pillar formed by the weathering of the chalk by the elements and rises above the prairie like a castle.
The rock consists of Niobrara chalk that the ground is made of, however, it remains a mystery why Castle Rock is still standing as the rock between it and the bluff has long been eroded.
The rock formation is fragile though and the tallest spire fell during a thunderstorm.
Castle Rock is at Larrabee, KS 67752
15- Red Hills
Red Hills is also known as the Gypsum Hills because they are rich in minerals, consisting of gypsum, brick-red shale, siltstone, sandstone and dolomite.
Located in the counties of Clark, Comanche and Barber, they are known as the Medicine Hills because Native Indians believed the region’s streams helped speed up the healing of wounds.
The waters contained calcium and magnesium sulphates which can have a therapeutic and healing effect.
The dissolution of the gypsum layers has resulted in numerous caves forming.
The Red Hills are at Powell, KS 67155.
16- Missouri River
The Missouri River at 3,768 km (2,341 miles) is the longest in the USA and was one of the main expansion routes to the west during the 19th century.
Fur traders, pioneers and settlers followed the river in search of a new life.
During the 20th century, the river was used to generate hydroelectric power and dammed for irrigation and flood control.
It flows through northeastern Kansas, travelling through 10 states.
In Kansas, Atchison, Leavenworth, and Kansas City are among the communities that settled on the Missouri River.
17- Mushroom Rock
Mushroom Rock State Park in the Smoky Hills is known for its natural rock formations that resemble mushrooms.
It’s the smallest but most unusual state park in Kansas because of its unique rock formations dating over 100 million years ago.
The formations are up to 8 m (27 ft) in diameter and are remnants of sediment and beach sand from the Cretaceous Period, which started 145 million years ago and ended 66 million years ago.
The sandstone and sedimentary rock are held together by calcium carbonate.
Mushroom Rock State Park is at Ave K, Brookville, KS 67425.
18- Horsethief Canyon
Horsethief Canyon in Kanopolis Lake State Park is a popular hiking area named after the outlaws and horse thieves who used to hide here.
These days, it’s a place for campers and hikers to set up base.
Access to this canyon is via a walking trail through grasslands, where side trails take you to caves.
Small streams flow through the canyon, making it an excellent place with varied scenery.
The Horsethief Canyon is at 200 Horsethief Rd, Marquette, KS 67464.
19- Rock City Park
Rock City Park in Ottawa County is famous for its clusters of large spherical boulders.
Some of the sandstone spheres are as large as 6 m (20 feet) in diameter.
There are 200 boulders in Rock City that cover an area as large as two football fields and is recognised as a National Natural Landmark of Kansas.
The spheres were created by nature’s chisel, weathered from a layer of sandstone in the Dakota Formation formed from sand at the edge of the Cretaceous Period inland sea.
Rock City Park is at 1051 Ivy Rd, Minneapolis, KS 67467.
20- Arikaree Breaks
Arikaree Breaks is a 58-km (36-mile) long area of ravines and terrain formed by the winds that carried sand from different states.
About three miles wide, there are few trees besides yucca, two species of sage that grow nowhere else in Kansas and 16 rare native plants.
The breaks are located on private property, and you’re not allowed to trespass, but several public roads are surrounding these breaks offer excellent views while driving past.
The Arikaree Breaks are at River St Saint Francis, KS 67756.
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