It’s a well known fact that Trego County holds many scenic wonders that draw visitors to our county. The Kansas Byways Program has taken notice of this fact, identifying a 60-mile route through Trego as one of their eleven scenic drives. There are hidden treasures to find throughout the county but these are some of our favorite stops along the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway.
Emanuel Lutheran Church
Begin your trip on Highway 147 at the I-70 Ogallah Exit #135 and head south to the Emanuel Lutheran Church. Swedish immigrants using native limestone constructed this historic church in 1902 and after 100 years it still stands as a beautiful example of pioneering ingenuity. Limestone were a very reliable local product for the early settlers
and were used for buildings and fence posts throughout the county.
Cedar Bluff State Park
Witnessing the seasonal changes seen in nature is one of Fall’s greatest gifts and in our county Cedar Bluff State Park & Reservoir is the best place to see it. The Smoky Hill River empties into the reservoir, filling up nearby canyons made from towering 100-foot limestone bluffs. The park is divided into two areas, the 300-acre Bluffton Area on the north shore and the 500-acre Page Creek Area on the south. Visit Threshing Machine Canyon and look for the carvings pioneers made as they traveled west on the Butterfield Overland Despatch.
Butterfield Overland Despatch Marker
Just south of the turn into the Bluffton Area on Hwy. 147 you’ll find a limestone post marking the path of the Smoky Hill Trail. Early pioneers traveling through Kansas to the Colorado gold mines used these markers to keep from getting lost on the vast prairie. For $175 a traveler could by a ticket on the Butterfield Overland Despatch stage coach and shave 100-miles off a trip from Atchison, Kansas to Denver, Colorado. The markers you can visit today were installed by Howard C. Raynesford in the mid 1960’s.
Smoky Hill River
The Smoky Hill River begins in the High Plains region of Colorado and flows 575-mile east until connecting with the Kansas River in Junction City, Kansas. It was a well-established hunting area for the Plains Indians when European explorers first added it to their maps in 1732 and it became a lifeline for people traveling west to seek their fortunes in the late twentieth century. Today, the Smoky Hill River still provides many hunting and wildlife viewing opportunities.
Wilcox School-District #29
Wilcox School, one of the last remaining rural schoolhouses in Trego County, is located on Hwy. 283 south of WaKeeney. It’s native limestone was quarried along the Smoky Hill River in 1886 and the building remained active for sixty years as a school and community center. At one time it was a motorcycle clubhouse, then fell into disrepair. Local volunteers are now in the process of repairing and weatherizing the building, completing stone and roof repairs in 2012.
Smoky Valley Scenic Byway Kiosk
For a breath of fresh air, park your car alongside the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway kiosk. You’ll find useful information and some interesting historical facts about the area and enjoy the powerful winds that create the tornados this area sometimes experience.
Zion Lutheran Church
Nine-miles south of WaKeeney a white steeple towers over the small Zion Lutheran Church. In 1905 newly arrived Volga-German immigrants organized the original congregation and fifteen years later built the church building. Today, the congregation continues to be very active, with the descendants of those original families still filling the pews.
From the church it’s only a short drive to Trego’s county seat, WaKeeney. Our quaint country town is a great example of small town America, with beautiful parks, friendly businesses, and many fun festivals throughout the year. Visit the Trego County Courthouse on Main Street; an American Queen Anne style building that was featured in several scenes in the 1973 film “Paper Moon.”
Whether in a car, on a motorcycle, or a bike, traveling on the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway will take you on a journey filled with fun, beauty, and a peek into the lives of the people who have chosen to make Trego County their home.