A Day on the Kansas Prairie

Last fall, Gail and I had a trip planned in Arkansas to hike and camp. The plans changed however due to poor weather conditions and we ended up on the Kansas prairie tour instead.

The week we had planned to travel, there was a huge storm out of the gulf. The southern states all had five day forecasts of rain so we opted out of traveling in that direction. We then searched for interesting locations north of us but the temperatures were colder than we wanted to deal with.

The Kansas weather forecast was predicted to be beautiful during the days we wanted to travel and was truly our best option. This decision was fine with me as I was born and raised in Kansas. I wanted to visit some places had never seen before.

The Kansas Prairie Sky

To appreciate Kansas, you have to have a respect for vastness and understated aesthetics. After living in the state most of my life and traveling through it on numerous business trips; I have come to this conclusion: The beauty of the Kansas prairie is primarily in the sky. If you judge Kansas solely by what’s on the ground you will miss the grandeur of the prairie. The vivid blue skies, the cloud formations and sunsets can be spectacular here.

Our route began with a late afternoon departure driving west out of Kansas City on I-70 to spend the night at Wilson Lake. This location made sense for our first stop because it’s about 3 hours west of our home. Wilson Lake is also a central location in the state to find some quirky points of interest. Visiting odd and beautiful places is the reason we purchased our sprinter van Alice.

We met the criteria we were looking for the next day in Lucas, Kansas .

The Garden of Eden

The town of Lucas is a 20-minute drive north of the Lake and is the home of the Garden of Eden. If you are traveling I-70 take highway 232 north to highway 18 and turn left to the small community.

This bizarre home was built by Civil War veteran Samuel Perry who started construction in 1907 at the age of 67. The exterior finishes, statues and artwork are made of reinforced concrete. All exterior elements have both biblical and political messages for the viewer. Perry hand made all the wooden doors, trim and stair parts inside the house.

As if all that was not enough, Mr. Perry also built a mausoleum to house his mummified remains which visitors can view if they choose. The Garden of Eden is a fun and one of a kind structure of artwork and is a true Kansas destination.

The Largest Ball of Twine

Yes, it’s true, Kansas claims to have the largest ball of twine in the world. More specifically, they have the largest ball of Sisal twine in the world. Apparently, there is another huge ball of twine somewhere in the world but you only have to find your way to Kansas to see this one!

The landmark is located in Cawker City is only a 20 minute drive from Lucas and the Garden of Eden. What can I say? If you’re going to visit one of these sites, visit them both!

The Geographic Center of the United States

We drove to the contiguous center of the United States and photographed the event for our archives. Seeing the landmark from an icon point of interest on a travel map and decided to check it out.

We have learned since that this location was only the proclaimed center of the USA from 1894 to 1918. However, those who were originally responsible for pinpointing the exact spot apparently approximated the true location.

The true center of the Contiguous United States is northwest of Lebanon, Kansas (near the Kansas / Nebraska border). Some say it’s an hour north of the pictured marker, to our dismay.

All this to say, the center of the contiguous USA is still in Kansas but not near Smith Center. We will leave the true location on our list of places to visit for another trip.

For your information, the center of the United States including Alaska and Hawaii is in Belle Fourche, South Dakota. We haven’t been there either!

The state of Kansas is not likely to be on most people’s top ten places to visit on their vacation. However, with some research and curiosity there are definitely fun points of interest in the state to visit.

The state is also rich with history as it was the primary crossroad during the early western expansion. The Kansas prairie is full of stories and landmarks.

Whether you live in the state or are driving through, we think a detour to an unusual place is always a good idea.

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