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Breathtaking Views


Traveling Kansas' Post Rock Scenic Byway, Wetlands & Wildlife National Scenic Byway, and Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway

This three-day tour takes you off Interstate 70 and onto one nationally designated and two Kansas Scenic Byways to experience nature at its finest. (Download PDF)

Day One: Post Rock Scenic Byway


Directions: Depart I-70 at exit 206 to join K-232. Go north on K-232 toward Lucas. Total distance: 18 miles

The Story - Post Rock Scenic Byway (18 miles)
Early settlers faced a serious problem. There was plenty of free land to farm, and mixed grass prairie for cattle, but trees were rare, making construction difficult. They discovered limestone, prevalent everywhere, could be easily gouged and cut. When the limestone hardened, it was perfect for houses and other buildings, even fence posts, each needed for the settlers to get started in the new state of Kansas.

The Byway Experience Today
Limestone posts still line the road from I-70, which dips and turns before the beauty of Wilson Lake unfolds en-route to Lucas, the Grassroots Arts Capital of Kansas.

1 Kansas Originals Market & Gallery
"Watchable Wildlife" auto tour and bird checklist brochures are available at the Information Center located inside the Kansas Originals store featuring the work of more than 100 Kansas artisans, craftsmen and food producers (just off I-70).

Don't Miss:
The Switchgrass Bike Trail, nicknamed "The Roller Coaster" for its 12 miles of pathway that hug steep hillsides and ravines, has a panoramic view of sandstone canyons and Wilson Lake. The post rock fence posts; sweeping views across Wilson Reservoir, along with camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, boating and hunting.

2 Wilson Reservoir
Two interpretive kiosks - one on either side of the bridge across the dam - tell the story of this byway, the significance and history of the post rock, and beauty of Lake Wilson. Campground, RV hook-ups, and picnic areas are located nearby.

3 The Story - Lucas
When farmer S.P. Dinsmoor retired, he started a unique construction project: a house in Lucas where limestone was quarried in long lengths to look like logs, and no two windows or doors are the same size. He also created a garden consisting of about 150 sculptures, some 40 feet tall, depicting religion and politics of the day. The Garden of Eden was perhaps the first project by an untrained, or grassroots, artist in Lucas, and sparked a migration of other self-taught artists to the town.

The Byway Experience Today
In addition to a tour of Dinsmoor's home and The Garden of Eden sculpture garden, take time to visit the Grassroots Arts Center. Florence Deeble's Rock Garden and the Garden of Isis with art made from dolls, toys and other recyclable material. the Flying Pig Studio & Gallery. World's Largest Collection of the World's Smallest Version of the World's Largest Things. Stop at Brant's Meat Market for homemade sausage and snacks.

Directions: From Lucas, drive south on K-232 South to I-70 West, then take Exit 184 to US-281 South. Total distance: 97 miles

Overnight: A variety of lodging is available on the Wetlands & Wildlife National Scenic Byway including bed & breakfasts and hotels. Call the scenic byway toll-free at 1-877-427-9299 for more lodging and restaurants information or visit for specific listings.

Day Two: Wetlands & Wildlife National Scenic Byway

Claflin • Ellinwood • Great Bend • Hoisington • Hudson • St. John • Stafford

Directions: From Hoisington, travel east on K-4 and follow the byway signs, exiting at US-281 North of St. John. Total distance: 76 miles

The Story - Wetlands & Wildlife National Scenic Byway (76 miles)
Would you have guessed the largest interior marsh in the United States is in Kansas? Or that the single most important U.S. wetland for migrating shorebirds is also in Kansas? Or that Kansas is the home to three sites deemed a Wetland of International Importance-Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area, The Nature Conservancy Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge? Together, referred to as the Kansas Wetlands Complex, these areas offer a diversity of freshwater and saltwater marshes. That, in conjunction with its location on the Central Flyway, is why more than half of the North American shorebird population (300 species) equate to over half a million birds crowding the complex during the spring and fall migrations. The combination of these breathtaking wetlands and the seven historic communities along the route are what make traveling this byway a nature lover's dream and an authentic rural experience. Binoculars and cameras are definitely a must on this adventure!

The Byway Experience Today
Stop at Cheyenne Bottoms Scenic Overlook on K-4 for excellent wildlife watching; follow the audio driving tour (complimentary CDs available at various locations along the byway); plan extra time to watch spring and fall migrations.

1 The Story - Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area
Cheyenne Bottoms is a nature lover's paradise with a history as rich and varied as its resources. A natural basin surrounded by 100-foot bluffs, this 41,000-acre wetland serves as a critical stopover for hundreds of thousands of migrating birds traveling the Central Flyway. Every year, the refuge hosts bald eagles, pelicans, ducks, geese, songbirds, birds of prey and many species of mammals and reptiles. Even threatened species have been spotted, including peregrine falcons, whooping cranes and piping plovers. It is the largest inland marsh in the United States and has been designated a Wetland of International Importance. Also receiving this designation is The Nature Conservancy Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve, which owns and manages a portion of the Bottoms in order to maintain a pristine habitat. Cheyenne Bottoms boasts a wealth of historical significance as well. For centuries the Plains Indians treasured the area as a hunting ground. It was the location of the first greyhound coursing match in 1886 and it was even used as a bombing range by the Great Bend Army Air Field during WWII.

2 Kansas Wetlands Education Center
Kansas Wetlands Education Center is open for tours, presentations, exhibits and an easy hiking trail into the marsh. Great gift shop has selection of nature-related items and books. Stop here for more byway information, including the audio tour CD.

3 The Story - Quivira National Wildlife Refuge
Named after the Quiviran Indians, this refuge is thought to be near where the Spanish explorer, Coronado, went searching for the fabled kingdom of gold. In 1541, he would have encountered grasslands, American Indian villages and plentiful wildlife. By the 20th Century, private hunting clubs had also recognized the natural wealth of the area and saved the land from agricultural development. Today the refuge is designated as a Wetland of International Importance and harbors over 500,000 birds during spring and fall migrations. Birds find rest and sustenance within its sand dunes, century-old cottonwood trees, natural grasses and multiple grains. This salt and freshwater marsh attracts pelicans, bald and golden eagles, shorebirds, ducks, geese and even rare birds such as whooping cranes. Quivira National Wildlife Refuge is also home to a prairie dog town and many other species of mammals and reptiles.

The Byway Experience Today
Detour for a 14-mile scenic wildlife drive. The Refuge includes numerous scenic overlooks, exhibits at the Visitor's Center, hiking trails and photo blinds.

Worth A Visit: Communities Along the Byway

Hoisington: Unique nature-inspired metal art on the light poles. Depression-era Post Office Mural & WPA constructed City Auditorium. Breakfast at Shaney's.

Claflin: Seven historic bridges, created from native limestone, are listed on the state historic register. Check the message barrel on Main Street for community activities.

Great Bend: GPS guided video tour of Cheyenne Bottoms and the Wetlands & Wildlife National Scenic Byway; Raptor Rehabilitation/Education Center at Great Bend Zoo. Barton County Historical Society Museum and Village is an official Santa Fe Trail Interpretive Site. 4 Legs Up - Restaurant for national award winning BBQ.

Ellinwood: Underground Tunnels in the 1887 Dick Building. Brick streets. Antique stores. European-style spa. Hamburgers at John Henry's.

Hudson: Stafford County Flour Mill, the home of Hudson Cream Flour. Sunday dinner at Wheatland Café.

Stafford: Seven historic locations listed on the National Register of Historic Places including a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed church. The Curtis Cafe serves amazing pies; its walls are covered with hundreds of completed jigsaw puzzles.

St. John: Church on the Hill. Science Museum. Historic African-American Martin Cemetery. Pueblo Nuevo Mexican restaurant.

On Your Computer or MP3 Player:
Download guidebooks, maps, brochures, bike trails and an audio guide at, but don't forget to take out your earbuds to hear the songs and calls of the wild birds.

Overnight: A variety of lodging is available on the byway including bed & breakfasts and hotels. Call the Wetlands & Wildlife National Scenic Byway's toll-free number, 1-877-427-9299, for more lodging information and complete restaurant listing.

Day Three: Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway

Coldwater • Medicine Lodge

Directions: Drive 51 miles south on US-281, through Pratt to Medicine Lodge for the entrance to the Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway (42 miles). Total distance: 93 miles

The Story - Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway (42 miles)
The Gypsum Hills present a stunning landscape like no other in America. Beautiful green cedars dot the red buttes created when exposed iron-rich soil "rusts." White gypsum deposits were left exposed by a shallow inland sea that disappeared nearly 260 million years ago. The combination creates a unique and extraordinary backdrop for the high plains. The Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway starts with the rugged landscape of canyons, buttes and mesas, but by the western end, has given way to the high plains and rolling farmland. A photographer's dream in any season, it is easy to spot wildflowers in the spring, abundant wildlife in the summer, colorful autumn foliage, and snow on the glistening red and white buttes during the winter.

1 The Story - Medicine Lodge
The Plains Indians discovered that the waters of the river in the Red Hills had healing properties, and so named it Medicine River. The Kiowas set up their tipis along the river for sweat lodges, thus "Medicine Lodge." Many tribes roamed the grasslands and hunting grounds, and skirmishes increased as the pioneers in wagons and settlers driving cattle wandered into their hunting grounds. After years of conflict, the United States promised the tribes peace and protection in return for relocation to reservations. At the signing of the Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty in 1867, more than 15,000 American Indians camped nearby including the Kiowa Chief Satanta, Little Raven of the Southern Arapaho and Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle. With the peace treaty came the railroad and eventual settlement of the town named Medicine Lodge. Approximately every three years Medicine Lodge commemorates the treaty signing with a pageant at Memorial Peace Park, a National Historic Landmark.

The Byway Experience Today
Visit the Stockade Museum for a collection of local artifacts, plus a log cabin and period buildings behind the museum for a "step back in time" tour. Next door, the Carry A. Nation Home describes the life of this local hatchet-wielding temperance leader. Get a hearty meal at Wright's Truck Stop & Café. Explore the area's natural beauty: Flower Pot Mound, Twin Peaks and the red rocks, buttes and mesas between the two towns. In good weather, trek some of the gravel and dirt scenic roads off the byway. Gypsum Hill Trail Rides are also available.

2 Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty
Just east of town is the place where the original peace treaty was signed. This National Historic Landmark is now a park (behind the golf course) where, every three years or so, the treaty is commemorated with a re-enactment of the significant event.

Directions: Continue west on the Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway, US-160 toward Coldwater (42 miles).

3 Scenic Overlook/Interpretive Kiosk
Two pull-offs provide great views of the dramatic landscape. A kiosk tells more about the byway and history of the region.

4 The Story - Coldwater
The Comanche, Kiowa, Cheyenne, Arapahoe and Plains Apaches roamed the plains, hunting herds of bison and other wildlife. As Eastern settlers came, they brought cattle to graze the open range. Fifteen men formed the Comanche Cattle Pool, the largest cattle operation in Kansas with 80,000 head of cattle and hundreds of cowboys to manage the herds. Laws later mandated fences to mark individual ranches and farms, and miles of barbed wire were erected, ending the era of the Cattle Pool in the 1880s. Towns like Coldwater sprung up across the west to support the needs of ranchers and cowboys, and after a period of lawlessness, settled into communities whose citizens would eventually celebrate the ways of the Old West.

The Byway Experience Today
Visit the Comanche County Museum for the story of the Comanche Cattle Pool. View the outdoor murals and restored Chief Theatre. Don't miss recreational activities on Coldwater Lake: fishing, boating, camping, and swimming. Take home a handmade gift from the Main Street Pharmacy.

Famous People:
Legendary lawmen Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp hunted bison here; notorious bank robbers Bonnie & Clyde stole a car near Coldwater. Carry A. Nation, the temperance leader, lived in Medicine Lodge and smashed a saloon in Kiowa. Country star Martina McBride was born near Medicine Lodge.

On Your MP3 Player:
"Home on the Range," the state song of Kansas, originally written as an 1870s poem about Kansas, with the words later set to music. Or any music from native Martina McBride.

Overnight at the Timberwolf Café and Inn or the Motel Comanche in Coldwater, catch a movie or performance at the Chief Theatre, enjoy the stunning sunsets over Coldwater Lake.

Directions: From Coldwater, drive north on US-183 to I-70 entrance at Hays. Total distance: 117 miles. Alternative route: at Kinsley, take US-56 East to Great Bend (one of the Wetlands & Wildlife National Scenic Byway communities) and then north on US-281 to I-70 entrance at Russell.

Post Rock Scenic Byway (18 miles)

1 Kansas Originals Market & Gallery
233 Hwy 232, I-70 and Hwy 232
Wilson, KS 67490
Phone: (785) 658-2602, Toll Free: (877) 457-6233

2 Wilson Reservoir, State Park, and Wildlife Area
3 State Park Rd
I-70, exit 206
Sylvan Grove, KS 67481
Phone: (785) 658-2465

3 Lucas
Lucas Area Chamber of Commerce
Phone: (785) 525-6288

Garden of Eden
305 E 2nd St
Lucas, KS 67648
Phone: (785) 525-6395

Grassroots Art Center
213 S Main St
Lucas, KS 67648
Phone: (785) 525-6118

Brant's Meat Market
125 S Main St
Lucas, KS 67648
Phone: (785) 525-6464

Wetlands & Wildlife National Scenic Byway (76 miles)

1 Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area
56 NE 40 Rd
Great Bend, KS 67530
Phone: (620) 793-7730

2 Kansas Wetlands Education Center
592 N.E. 156 Highway
Great Bend, KS 67530
Phone: (620) 786-7456, Toll Free: (877) 243-9268

3 Quivira National Wildlife Refuge
1434 NE 80th St.
Stafford, KS / St. John, KS 67578
Phone: (620) 486-2393

Hoisington Chamber of Commerce
Phone: (620) 653-4311


Great Bend Convention & Visitors Bureau
Phone: (620) 792-2750, Toll Free: (877) 427-9299

Ellinwood Chamber of Commerce
Phone: (620) 564-3300


Stafford Chamber of Commerce
Phone: (620) 234-5614

Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway (42 miles)

1 Medicine Lodge
Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty Association
Phone: (620) 886-9815

Stockade Museum
209-211 W Fowler, Hwy 160
Medicine Lodge, KS 67104
Phone: (620) 886-3553

2 Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty
Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty Association
Phone: (620) 886-9815

3 Scenic Overlook

4 Coldwater
Coldwater Chamber of Commerce
Phone: (620) 582-2859

Comanche County Historical Museum
105 W Main St
Coldwater, KS 67029
Phone: (620) 582-2108