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  • Writer's picturePat & Kris Larkin

A Weekend Getaway Tour of the Historic Flint Hills

The Flint Hills of Kansas boasts a landscape that is not only picturesque but also steeped in history. Among the charming towns that dot this region, Cottonwood Falls stands out as a gateway to a bygone era. Join us on a virtual journey as we embark on a tour of historic sites in the Flint Hills, starting our adventure in the quaint and welcoming town of Cottonwood Falls.

First Stop : Cottonwood Falls

Our exploration begins in our hometown of Cottonwood Falls, a town that effortlessly blends small-town charm with a rich historical tapestry. The downtown is a perfect starting point, surrounded by well-preserved 19th-century buildings that transport visitors back to the days of horse-drawn carriages and bustling markets.

Chase County Courthouse: A Majestic Beacon of History

At the heart of Cottonwood Falls stands the iconic Chase County Courthouse, a majestic structure that dates back to 1873. This architectural gem is the oldest courthouse still in use in the state of Kansas. Visitors are not only treated to an impressive exterior but can also explore the interior, where the courthouse's history comes to life through exhibits and artifacts. The panoramic views of the Flint Hills from the courthouse cupola are breathtaking, offering a glimpse into the untouched beauty that surrounds this historic town.

Cottonwood River Bridge: A Testament to Ingenuity

A short walk from the Chase County Courthouse leads to the historic Cottonwood River Bridge. Built in 1884 as an iron truss bridge, this bridge was once a testament to the ingenuity of 19th-century engineering. In 1914, the bridge was beautifully converted to concrete. Crossing the Cottonwood River, the bridge provides an ideal vantage point to appreciate the natural beauty of the surrounding hills. It's a picturesque spot, perfect for capturing the essence of a bygone era against the backdrop of the rolling Flint Hills.

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve: A Living Legacy

A short drive from Cottonwood Falls brings us to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, a living legacy that pays homage to the native grasses that once covered vast stretches of the American Midwest. The historic ranch house, built in the 1880s, provides insight into the challenges faced by early settlers. Guided tours take visitors through the prairie, offering a chance to witness the beauty of the tallgrass ecosystem and understand its historical significance.

Second Stop : Strong City

Leaving Cottonwood Falls and Chase County behind, our journey takes us to Strong City, another charming town in the Flint Hills that beckons with its historic allure.

Strong City Train Depot : When the Rail Ruled

Once called Cottonwood Station, a highlight of Strong City, named for the Santa Fe Railway System president, William Barstow (W. B.) Strong is the Strong City Train Depot. The original depot burned in 1902 and was replaced in 1903. In 1913, due in part to the very heavy passenger and freight traffic, a new brick depot trimmed in native-cut limestone was built. The new depot was up to date in every way and was one of the best in the Santa Fe System.

Jacalito Family Restaurant : An authentic Mexican-American Food Experience

Before concluding our time in Strong City, a visit to Jacalito Family Restaurant is a must. Housed in a historic building, this restaurant serves up fantastic Mexican and American dishes that are sure to please even the pickiest of history buffs.

Third Stop : Historic Council Grove

Council Grove, Kansas, was once the last stop on the Santa Fe Trail before heading into the Wild West. This is a town steeped in history, offering visitors a glimpse into the bygone days of the American Midwest.

Hays House: A Culinary Journey Through Time

Step into the historic Hays House, recognized as the oldest continuously operating restaurant west of the Mississippi. Established in 1857 by Seth Hays, great-grandson of Daniel Boone, this eatery serves up not only delectable meals but also a side of history. The rustic ambiance, complete with original furnishings and artifacts, transports diners back to the era of westward expansion, making every meal a journey through time.

The Last Chance Store: A Shopping Trip Back in Time

Explore the Last Chance Store, a living testament to Council Grove's role as a vital stop on the Santa Fe Trail. Originally a trading post, this historic site now houses a museum. Wander through the artifacts that chronicle the challenges faced by pioneers and traders.

Seth Hays Home: A Glimpse Into the Life of a Pioneer

Visit the Seth Hays Home to experience life as it was in the mid-1800s. The meticulously preserved dwelling showcases the architecture and lifestyle of Council Grove's early settlers. Guided tours provide insights into the Hays family history, local lore, and the town's pivotal role as a rendezvous point for pioneers. Walking through the rooms of this historic home is like stepping back in time, allowing visitors to connect with the challenges and triumphs of Council Grove's pioneers.

As we conclude our tour of historic sites in the Flint Hills, from Cottonwood Falls to Council Grove, you can't help but feel a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to experience the history that breathes life into the heart of Kansas. Each site visited is a thread in the fabric of Kansas history, telling stories of resilience, ingenuity, and the timeless beauty of the Flint Hills. Whether exploring the courthouse in Cottonwood Falls, traversing the historic railroad history of Strong City, or stepping into the past at the Last Chance Store, the Flint Hills offer a captivating journey through time, inviting visitors to appreciate the heritage that has shaped this picturesque region.

Book your stay at a Lark Inn Guesthouse, and head out on your tour of the historic Flint Hills of Kansas.

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