Kansas Heritage | Kansas History | The Interactive Santa Fe Trail | Kansas Sights |
(The following was written by Jamie Jensen for the Kansas section of his Route 50 - Road Trip: USA, and linked here for use with the Interactive Santa Fe Trail. Jamie is planning to add a feature on the SF Trail, with a map of the entire route in the future, which we plan to also link here.)

Fort Larned One of the best-preserved vestiges of the Santa Fe Trail, Fort Larned (9am-5pm daily; $1; 620/285-6911), now six miles west of US-56 via Hwy-156, was established in 1859, and for the next 20 years troops stationed here protected travelers on the Santa Fe Trail from the threat of attack by local Arapahoe and Cheyenne tribes. The fort also served a vital role in the many Indian Wars of 1860s, but by 1878, when the trail was no longer in active use, the fort was deactivated. It was sold and used as a ranch until 1960, but has survived the intervening years in excellent condition; careful restoration by the National Park Service has made Fort Larned an excellent place to experience what the frontier really looked like, albeit with a clear concentration on the military perspective.

Sandstone buildings, which replaced the original adobe after the end of the Civil War, surround a 400 foot-square parade ground, and interior rooms have been filled with accurate reproductions of original fixtures and fittings, ranging from barracks to blacksmith's shops to a large storehouse. A nearby farm preserves a set of ruts surviving from the Santa Fe Trail days, though you really need to have an active imagination to get much from them.

In between Fort Larned and US-56, the Santa Fe Trail Museum and Cultural Center (9am-5pm daily; $3; 620/285-2054) is a private, nonprofit museum focusing on the overall history of the Santa Fe Trail region. Diorama-like exhibits feature full-scale mock-ups of wagons and frontier trading posts, and behind the main building are a sod house and a one-room schoolhouse.

Back on US-56, the town of Larned has a typical crossroads collection of motels and McDonald's, and there's also the unique Central States Scout Museum, 815 Broadway (9am-5pm Sat & Sun; $1), full of exhibits telling the story of Kansas Boy Scouts through the years.