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American Frontier


Traveling Kansas' Glacial Hills Scenic Byway and Frontier Military Historic Byways

This is a three-day itinerary originating in Kansas City to experience two of Kansas' Byways. The itinerary loops north to the Glacial Hills Scenic Byway before veering south for the Frontier Military Historic Byway, and then returns to Kansas City. Suggested stops and detours help tell the story of these two distinctive byways and the rich heritage of the region. (Download PDF)

Day One: Glacial Hills Scenic Byway

Leavenworth • Atchison • Troy • White Cloud
from Kansas City, drive US-73 North to begin your journey in Leavenworth, anchoring both the Glacial Hills Scenic Byway and the Frontier Military Scenic Byway. Continue north to Atchison, then connect with K-7 north to White Cloud. (Note: As this itinerary travels the byway route in both a northbound and southbound direction, you may want to change the order of the "must see" activities along the byway.) Total distance: 126 miles

The Story - Glacial Hills Scenic Byway (63 miles)
As Ice Age glaciers receded in northeast Kansas, they left behind cliffs and rock-strewn valleys explored by the Lewis and Clark in 1804. The expedition noted the remains of a French fort near what is now Leavenworth, fired a cannon to celebrate Independence Day near Atchison, and saw an abandoned Kanza Indian village near Doniphan. Little did they dream, however, of the thousands that would soon follow, including the Pony Express riders who crossed Doniphan County prairies en-route to San Francisco.

1 Four State Lookout
Loess (wind-borne silt left by the glaciers) forms huge cliffs along the Missouri River at White Cloud, the northern-most destination on this byway. Located on Third Street, three blocks north of Main Street, a scenic overlook provides a spectacular view of the river. On a clear day, from the platform you can see four states: Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri.

From White Cloud, travel south on K-7 to Troy (19 miles)

2 Troy
An eighteen-site, self-guided walking tour around the Doniphan County Courthouse Square District includes the 27-foot sculpture of an Indian chief carved from a bur oak log in Troy. Don't miss a meal at the Home Place Restaurant, with daily home-cooked specials and pie sold in square pieces. The self-guided Doniphan County Historic Barn Tour features eight barns, five of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Famous People:
In 1859, Abraham Lincoln gave his renowned Cooper Union speech on the campaign trail in Troy, Atchison, Doniphan and Leavenworth.

Directions: From Troy, continue traveling south on K-7 to Atchison. Rejoin the Byway at US-73 (19 miles)

3 The Story - Atchison
In the mid-1800s it was not unusual to see four or five steamboats anchored daily at the Atchison levee. Stagecoach and freight lines quickly followed, transporting mail, goods and people from east to west. By the late 1800s, Atchison was booming as the eastern terminus of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad along with seven other railroad lines. Scores of beautiful Victorian-style mansions built by the wealthy, and a commercial district quickly rose near the river. Manufacturing flourished, as did banking and milling. Atchison's growth stagnated when construction of a bridge over the Missouri River was delayed, hampering trade that eventually moved to Kansas City and St. Joseph.

The Byway Experience Today
Stop by the Atchison Visitor's Center for information and a museum in the restored Santa Fe Depot; trolley tours depart from here daily. Atchison has 20 sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places including the Evah C. Cray Historical Home Museum, a magnificent 25-room Victorian mansion open for tours. While in town, tour the Lewis and Clark Riverfront Pavilion and Independence Creek site. Stroll the downtown commercial district for easy walking to many locally-owned shops and restaurants. Atchison is also considered one of the state's most haunted cities in the 1997 book "Haunted Kansas"; each September and October, the town commemorates this distinction with haunted tours and numerous ghostly activities. Benedictine Monks opened a small school in 1858, followed by the Benedictine sisters who founded a school for the townspeople. The joined schools are now Benedictine College, named as one of the best colleges in the U.S. Visit St. Benedict's Abbey Church and the historic college campus.

4 The Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum
Home of the famous pilot's grandparents, Amelia Earhart was born and lived here until age ten. House tours are available, and a festival every July celebrates her birth.

Don't Miss:
Nell Hill's home furnishings and accessories; Commercial Street shopping plaza; Kevin Van Dyke's family-operated neighborhood grocery; Ball Brother's Health Mart soda fountain; Reynolds Drugs soda fountain. For local dining, try Paolucci's Restaurant, serving a taste of Italy for more than 90 years, Marigold Bakery and Café, or Jerry's Again restaurant in the old Masonic Lodge. Several bed and breakfast inns are located in historic mansions.

On Your MP3 Player or Radio:

Music from the movie "Amelia," or "We Proceeded On, Songs of Lewis and Clark" CD. Download a free podcast from to learn more about the famous journey, or consider an historical audio book such as "Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery" by Dayton Duncan, narrated by Ken Burns.

Directions: from Atchison, travel south on US-73 to Leavenworth (24 miles)

Overnight in Leavenworth at the Prairie Queen Bed & Breakfast, named for one of the riverboats that docked in town. Visit Leavenworth Landing Park, and walk along the former river-landing site before enjoying dinner at a locally-owned restaurant.




Day Two: The Frontier Military Historic Byway

Leavenworth • Louisburg • Pleasanton • Fort Scott • Pittsburg • Baxter Springs
Because of the length of this byway - the longest in the state at 167 miles - the itinerary spans two days and suggests several detours before returning to Kansas City. (Note: As the loop tour traverses the byway in both northbound and southbound directions, you may want to change the sequence when visiting suggested attractions along the route.)

The Story - Frontier Military Historic Byway (167 miles)
Moses Grinter and his Delaware Indian wife, Annie, settled in a house overlooking the historic Delaware crossing on the Kansas River to farm. Operating a ferry and trading post, the Grinters ferried troops traveling between Forts Leavenworth and Scott and sold goods to the Lenape (Delaware) Indians who had been relocated as part of the Indian removal policy. Stories of frontier life like this were common up and down the river as troops, trying to keep peace on the Permanent Military Indian Frontier, occasionally got into skirmishes with the indigenous population. After 1820, however, there were skirmishes of a different type - free versus slave status for new states. The violent unrest along the Kansas (free) and Missouri (slave) border between 1855 - 1861 was called "Bleeding Kansas" by the Eastern papers.

The Byway Experience Today
The byway is the main north-south connector along Kansas' eastern state boundary. Many of the sites and communities on, adjacent to, or near the Byway are part of Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area, a nationally designated region interpreting the struggles for freedom. Included on or near the byway are: Grinter Place Historic Site; Shawnee Mission State Historic Site; Merriam Historic Plaza; Shawnee Town; 1950's All Electric House at the Johnson County Museum of History; Legler Barn Museum; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Overland Park; Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead; and Marais des Cygnes Wildlife Area.


1 The Story - Fort Leavenworth
Disobeying orders to build on the east bank of the Missouri River, Col. Henry Leavenworth built an Army post on the more strategically situated west bank of the river. Here he established Fort Leavenworth, the chief base of operations on the frontier to help protect the growing numbers of wagon trains traveling west along the Santa Fe, Oregon and other trails as well as assist with the settlement of Indian tribes along the Western plains onto reservations. The African-American "Buffalo Soldiers" of the U.S. 10th Cavalry were formed here in 1866. The United States Disciplinary Barracks was founded in 1875 and General William T. Sherman founded here what is now the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. The fort is the oldest active army post west of the Mississippi River.

The Byway Experience Today
Inside the Fort: Buffalo Soldier Monument; Frontier Army Museum featuring the story of Lewis and Clark and displays and stories of the wagons and people traveling west; Memorial Chapel; The Rookery, the oldest residence in Kansas. Take a beautiful drive along the river, past post housing.

Famous People:
The Ft. Leavenworth Hall of Fame includes Omar Bradley, Dwight Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, George Patton, William Westmoreland and Colin Powell.

2 The Story - Leavenworth
The community that grew around the fort, Leavenworth, was founded as the first city of Kansas. The Delaware, Kansa and Osage Indian tribes made their home in the area. Many of the streets of Leavenworth are named after them and other local tribes. As the town flourished, homes were built and commercial ventures began including the amusement company built by the "Carousel King," Charles Wallace Parker.

The Byway Experience Today
Carroll Mansion, an imposing Queen Anne Victorian residence, offers tours by costumed guides. At the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum, you can ride a restored Parker carousel. Performing Arts Center, formerly the Hollywood Theatre designed by the famous Boller Brothers, hosts performances by the local theatre group. Visit the National Cemetery. The Historic Wayside Walking Tour features 13 interactive locations in the riverfront downtown area, or take a trolley tour for additional stories about historic Leavenworth. A driving tour of historic districts and local architecture is also available.

Famous People:
Robert Stroud, known as "The Bird Man of Alcatraz", George "Machine Gun" Kelly and, more recently, pro football player Michael Vick, each spent time at the U.S. Penitentiary - a 1906 Beaux Arts building with walls 40 feet above, and 40 feet below ground. Buffalo Bill Cody spent part of his youth in Leavenworth and his parents are buried here. Melissa Etheridge has honored her hometown by establishing a scholarship at the high school, performed a benefit for a new park and donated money to refurbish the Performing Arts Theatre.

Don't Miss:
Shop in Downtown Leavenworth's eclectic mix of stores then stop at the Corner Pharmacy/Old Time Soda Fountain; Homer's Drive Inn; Ten Penny Restaurant & Bar (barbeque);
High Noon Saloon and Brewery.

On Your MP3 Player or Radio:
Listen to Melissa Etheridge, "Jailhouse Rock" and "Folsom Prison Blues;" download a Leavenworth County podcast online to learn more about architecture, customs, art, geography, history, food and people.

Directions: Travel south along the Missouri River on K-5 to I-435 around Kansas City to exit 81. Take the Frontier Military Historic Byway (US-69) south to Overland Park (39 miles)

3 Worth a Detour: Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm Historic Site in Olathe
Visit the only working stagecoach stop on the Santa Fe Trail. The Mahaffie home, built of native limestone, is open to the public along with other original and reconstructed out buildings in the complex. Stagecoach rides are held twice a month; many spring, summer and fall activities are scheduled. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

4 Worth a Detour: John Brown Museum State Historic Site in Osawatomie
This historic log cabin, home to abolitionists Samuel and Florella Adair, was once a station on the Underground Railroad. The Battle of Osawatomie was fought at the site of the park when abolitionist John Brown - Florella's half brother - and his men tried to defend Osawatomie from pro-slavery activists. The site, operated by the Kansas Historical Society and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, pays tribute to this pioneer family and the events that occurred here. Also in Osawatomie are four bridges on the National Register of Historic Places.

5 The Story - Overland Park
Overland Park is among one of the country's first truly planned cities. It traces its roots back to 1905 with the arrival of its founder William B. Strang Jr., who envisioned a self-sustaining, well-planned "park-like" community. Built on the bluffs close to Kansas City, Strang chose the name Overland Park from the name of the trail that ran through it - the Overland Trail. Before his death in 1921, Strang established housing developments, an interurban railroad and an airfield as well as quality schools, stores, and entertainment. The original limestone car barn at 79th Street and Santa Fe Drive now houses a furniture store and photograph museum depicting its historical significance. The Carriage House, located in Santa Fe Commons Park, is the home of the Overland Park Historical Society. Both buildings are open for tours and are located within the Downtown Overland Park Business District.

Don't Miss:
Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens; dinner and show at the New Theatre Restaurant.

Directions: From Overland Park, continue south on the Frontier Military Historic Byway (US-69) to Louisburg (23 miles)

6 The Story - Louisburg
When the first French explorers came across the site of what is now Louisburg, they found forested hills and wide, flat prairie. It was then home to a variety of Plains Indians - Shawnee, Miami, Pottawotomie and the Confederated Tribes of Wea, Piankashaw, Peoria, and Kaskaskia. By 1866, a settlement known as St. Louis began to form along the banks of Wea Creek, generally referred to as Rabbit Creek by long time residents. The prairie supplied settlers the fertile ground for wheat and other grains. Soon mills and grain dealers came to deal with the farmers and that led, inevitably, to the arrival of the railroads. In an effort to avoid confusion with the better-known St. Louis on the banks of the Mississippi River, the name was changed to Louisburg around 1871 or 1872.

Don't Miss:
Louisburg Cider Mill and Country Store; Middle Creek Theatre. Rest Area at Trading Post exit between Louisburg and Pleasanton has interpretive boards, a walking trail, covered picnic areas and public restrooms.

Directions: From Louisburg, continue south on the Frontier Military Historic Byway (US-69) to Pleasanton (33 miles)

7 The Story - Marais des Cygnes Massacre Near Pleasanton
Battles between abolitionists and proslavery factions continued from 1854 - 1861 to determine whether Kansas would enter the Union as a free or slave state. The Missouri Compromise drew a line westward from the Mississippi River, to equally divide free and slave states. When the Kansas-Nebraska Act nullified the Compromise, the territory's future status was in the hands of the settlers, who voted to make Kansas a free state. This further aggravated tensions between the North and the South, ushering in the Missouri-Kansas Border War and, eventually, the Civil War. In 1858, proslavery leader Charles Hamilton, crossed from Missouri into Hamilton, Kansas, capturing eleven free state men, then gunned them down. Five were killed. The Marais des Cygnes Massacre was one of the most violent of the Bleeding Kansas clashes. The shootings shocked the nation, and abolitionist John Brown soon visited the site and began construction of a fort. One of the largest cavalry engagements of the Civil War was also in this area. Confederate General Sterling Price, in an effort to capture Missouri for the Confederacy, was soundly beaten near Kansas City and retreated south. Chased by a Union cavalry division, Price's army was attacked as they camped on the Marais des Cygnes River then again by Union brigades as they prepared to cross Mine Creek. In one of the largest mounted cavalry engagements of the war, the rapid attack and firepower of 2,600 Union Army troops defeated more than 7,000 Confederate soldiers in about 30 minutes.

The Byway Experience Today
Marais des Cygnes Massacre State Historic Site and National Historic Landmark includes interpretation and a museum in the Hadsall House; Mine Creek Battlefield Historic Site has a visitor center with hands-on exhibits, living history program and 2.6 mile walking trail with informational signs.

Don't Miss:
Cookees' Drive Inn, Snow's Cafe

Directions: From Pleasanton, continue south on Frontier Military Historic Byway (US-69) to Fort Scott (24 miles)

Overnight in Fort Scott at Lyons Twin Mansions or the Courtland Hotel and Aveda Salon Spa and enjoy dinner at The Buffalo Grill.

Day Three: Continuing along the Frontier Military Historic Byway

Fort Scott • Pittsburg • Baxter Springs

8 The Story - Fort Scott
Established by the US Army from 1842 - 1853 to assist with the protection of the Permanent Indian Frontier, troops guarded caravans on the Santa Fe Trail and patrolled the frontier territory. The government abandoned the buildings in 1853. Local settlers later purchased them for commercial uses, and Fort Scott became one of the largest cities in the Kansas Territory. Between 1854 and 1861, however, violent unrest erupted along the Missouri-Kansas border. The national controversy to extend slavery to new states divided Fort Scott. The infamous James Montgomery led raiders in numerous incidents in and around Fort Scott. After Kansas entered the Union as a free state and the Civil War broke out, Fort Scott was re-established to recruit and train black soldiers. Strategically vital during the Civil War as a supply depot, training center and recruitment station, the fort was temporarily captured by Southern General Sterling Price, but James Lane launched an offensive behind him, leading to the Sacking of Osceola. This battle later became the basis of the 1976 movie "The Outlaw Josey Wales."

The Byway Experience Today
Fort Scott National Historic Site has self-guided and cell phone tours, an audio visual program at the visitors center, 20 historic structures, parade grounds and restored tall-grass prairie. The National Cemetery is one of the original 14 designated by Abraham Lincoln. A walking tour brochure describes the architecture and 46 sites, including Victorian homes and along the brick streets in historic downtown. Fort Scott's brick foundries not only provided bricks for Fort Scott's streets, but for the Indianapolis Speedway ("The Brickyard") and the Panama Canal. Other attractions include trolley tours and the Gordon Parks Center for Culture & Diversity (at Fort Scott Community College) featuring works of renowned African-American photographer, choreographer and filmmaker who donated his collection to Mercy Hospital.

Don't Miss:
Shopping: antiques, furniture, home décor, clothing, arts & crafts, jewelry, boutiques and national chains. Outdoors: Gunn Park, Kansas Rocks Recreational Park, Fort Scott Lake, Rock Creek Lake, Bourbon Wildlife Area. Good Ol' Days begins first weekend in June with melodramas through the end of July. Fort Scott Jubilee on Saturday nights at Grand Memorial Hall.

On Your MP3 Player or Radio:Music from the movie "Shaft," directed by Fort Scott native Gordon Parks

9 The Story - Pittsburg
The discovery of large deposits of coal led to the founding - and naming - of Pittsburg, Kansas in 1876. The ready supply of coal drew the railroads. Envisioned as a major industrial center, the city's founders recruited miners from Germany, France, Italy and Sweden to migrate to America and Kansas. They provided the initial labor for strip mining. By 1887, the first shaft mines were sunk. Coal turned out to be just the first of the areas rich resources. Clay fields provided the raw material for brickworks, and the coal helped fuel not just the railroads but a zinc smelting industry. The coal mines are largely empty now, but evidence of their importance can still be seen near town: "Big Brutus", an 11 million pound, 16-story power shovel is now a tourist attraction, available for exploring. The city boasts a wide array of cultural attractions and even a new nickname: "Fried Chicken Capital of Kansas" reflecting the chicken dinner wars between across-the-street rivals Chicken Annie's Original and Chicken Mary's. 

The Story - Baxter Springs
Stop by the Phillips 66 Visitors' Center on Historic Route 66; the facility, located on the National Register of Historic Places, has been completely restored to its original 1939 appearance. For military history enthusiasts, must see visits include the reconstructed Fort Blair and National Cemetery (where victims of the Quantrill attacks on Fort Blair, and the Baxter Springs massacre, are interred.) The Heritage Center also includes an extensive Civil War exhibit and interpretive gallery. The only remaining example of a fixed Marsh Rainbow Arch Bridge left on Kansas Route 66 is just north of Baxter Springs. You can drive on it, but it often used for community picnics or weddings. The Café on the Route appeared on the Food Network show "Diners, Drive Inns and Dives."

Worth a Detour: Big Brutus in West Mineral
The second largest electric shovel in the world at 16 stories tall - was originally used for coal mining. What happened to the strip mines Big Brutus cleared? More than 14,000 acres were purchased by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and now manages them as Mined Land Wildlife Areas, rich habitats of prairie grasses, shrubs, oak and hickory woodlands with abundant wildlife.

Directions: Return to Kansas City via Frontier Military Historic Byway (US-69). Total distance: 152 miles


Glacial Hills Scenic Byway (63 miles)

1 Four State Look Out


White Cloud Tourism
Phone: (785) 595-3320 

2 Troy
Doniphan County Chamber of Commerce
Phone: (913) 365-2604



International Forest of Friendship

17860 274th Rd
Warnock Lake
Atchison, KS 66002
Phone: 9133671419
A life-size bronze statue of Amelia Earhart gazes over the International Forest of Friendship, which is a living, growing memorial to those who have been involved in aviation and space ... More


Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum

223 N Terrace St
Atchison, KS 66002
Phone: (913) 367-4217
Restored home where the internationally-famous aviatrix was born on July 24, 1897. Contains family heirlooms, displays, and photographs. Gift shop with Earhart souvenirs. Also exhibits on other ... More


Frontier Military Historic Byway (167 miles)





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John Brown Museum State Historic Site

1000 Main St
John Brown Memorial Park
Osawatomie, KS 66064
Phone: (913) 755-4384
Witness pioneer life where Reverend Samuel and Florella Adair struggled to survive on the Kansas frontier while maintaining their Abolitionist principles. The Kansas career of Florella's ... More


5 Overland Park
Overland Park Convention & Visitors Bureau
Phone: (913) 491-0123
Toll Free: (800) 262-PARK (7275



Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens

8909 W 179th St
Overland Park, KS 66225
Phone: (913) 685-3604
The Botanical Gardens offer a succession of colorful displays. They are designed around several thematic concepts and form distinctive outdoor rooms. Some, related to buildings, are architectural ... More


New Theatre Restaurant

9229 Foster St
Overland Park, KS 66212
Phone: (913) 649-0103
Our 600-seat theatre features Broadway-style musicals and comedies starring award-winning actors from stage, TV and film including Jamie Farr, Marion Ross and Marla Gibbs to name a few. Guests are ... More




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14730 K68 HWY
Louisburg, KS 66053
Phone: (913) 837-5202
Louisburg Cider Mill has apple cider and its famous cider doughnuts, of course, but also has a country store full of other wonderful products. Depending on the season, the Louisburg Cider Mill ... More


Middle Creek Theatre and Event Center

33565 Metcalf Rd.
Louisburg, KS 66053
Phone: (913) 377-2722
Middle Creek Theatre and Event Center is open all year. With the nearby lake and RV park, the site is ready for any size of event. More


Marais des Cygnes Massacre State Historic Site

20485 Hwy 52
Pleasanton, KS 66075
Phone: (913) 352-8890
In May 1858, proslavery men gunned down 11 free-state men in a ravine that is now an important landmark. The shootings shocked the nation and became a pivotal event in the Bleeding Kansas era. A ... More


8 Fort Scott
Fort Scott Tourist Information Center
Phone: (620) 223-3566
Toll Free: (800) 245-3678


Fort Scott National Historic Site

Old Fort Boulevard
PO Box 918
Fort Scott, KS 66701
Phone: (620) 223-0310
Each of the site's 20 historic structures, furnished rooms, exhibits, costumed interpreters, and special event weekends help you experience the events that shaped the nation. First Kansas Colored ... More




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10 Baxter Springs
Baxter Springs Chamber of Commerce
Phone: (620) 856-3131