Summer vacation is here and it’s time to hit the road and explore the beautiful Great Plains of Western Kansas!
There are many wonderful places to visit in Trego County—the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway, Cedar Bluff State Park, and Downtown WaKeeney—but did you know when you travel across Trego County to see these great places you are actually traveling on historic landmarks, too?
Smoky Hill Trail
When the very first travelers began crossing the Great Plains they were mostly on their own. No maps, no guidebooks, no hint of where the next turn would take them. Word-of-mouth was their guide in those days, and the unmapped, 500-mile route they typically followed was called the Smoky Hill Trail. It was fraught with danger. Word of deadly animal encounters, dehydration, and hostile native people protecting their land soon gave the route a bad reputation and people traveling west determined a longer, northern route was a better option.
The Butterfield Overland Trail
Seeing opportunity in the increasing desire to “Go West,” an entrepreneur from Atchison, KS named David A. Butterfield set out to establish a faster route to Denver. He mapped a route across the Great Plains in 1865 and built several “home stations” along the route (Trego County claims six of those stations; Bluffton, Stormy Hollow Station, White Rock Station, Downer Station, Ruthton Station and Castle Rock Creek Station). Soon he was advertising passage on his Butterfield Overland Despatch (BOD) stagecoach for $175 a person and fifty-cents to a dollar for a meal.
Trego County claims a 21-mile stretch of what was billed as the “fastest route to the Colorado goldmines,” and modern-day historians can visit commemorative guideposts placed along the trail’s route in the 1960s at points where today’s north/south roads intersect the BOD trail. The guideposts extend beyond our county’s borders from Ellsworth, KS, to the state line, providing modern-day adventurers the opportunity to follow in the path the early pioneers took across our state, with the exception of the first 63-miles.
US Highway 40
For those who love easy drives along scenic country roads, consider taking the road less traveled and turn your car down US Highway 40.
The once paved road was at one time the main artery between Ogallah, WaKeeney, and Collyer, Trego County’s largest towns. Now, it provides travelers an opportunity to slow down and enjoy the sights, surrounded by shade trees in some spots and wide open landscape in others.
Built in 1926, Highway 40’s route roughly followed the same course as the Butterfield Overland Despatch Trail. Its construction marked a seminal moment in history for travel across America when larger, more reliable cars allowed more people to hit the road than ever before, and transcontinental movement was more accessible to everyone.
During America’s “Golden Age of Automobiling” in the 1950’s, Highway 40 carried more traffic than any other transcontinental highway in the United States, even gaining recognition as a Blue Star Memorial Highway in 1951.
Today, the road most traveled is Interstate 70, a road first envisioned on the battlefield of World War II.
During his time leading the troops in Europe, Kansas native President Dwight D. Eisenhower saw the value of an interconnecting, paved road that could support military movements, trade, and public transportation needs. He commissioned his teams to map the fastest and most easily traversed routes possible and they found the Great Plains’ landscape fit the requirements perfectly. In 1956 construction began on “the Main Street of Kansas,” and ever since it’s played a huge role in our county’s communities.
Stop by Eisenhower Park at WaKeeney’s West Exit #127 to enjoy our monument to the president who brought American travelers to our city’s front door.
Enjoy the Journey, and the Destination
People say that it’s not only the destination, but also the journey that makes a trip worthwhile, and those words ring true when traveling over the historic roads of Trego County. You will find that whichever route you choose you’ll be following in the footsteps of people who helped develop this great nation over the last 150-years.
This summer set out on a trip through time to explore the historic roads of Trego County!
Check out these great WaKeeney hotels and campgrounds the next time you travel on these historic Trego County Roads.
Best Western Plus WaKeeney Inn & Suites
525 1st St., (785) 743-2700
Best Western Plus WaKeeney Inn & Suites is located on the north side of I-70’s West Exit #127, has an indoor pool and fitness center, laundry facilities, a business center and free WiFi in every room. Adjoining rooms are perfect for families. A full breakfast includes pastries and waffles, fresh fruits, cereal, yogurt, juice and 100% Arabica coffee.
219 Barclay Ave.,/I-70 Business Loop, (785) 743-5202
Bryant Motel 50-year old motel is a classic roadside lodging option. It’s located on WaKeeney’s I-70 Business Loop and offers cable TV and WiFi Internet access, free local calls, a microwave and a refrigerator. The locally owned and operated motel has clean, comfortable rooms at reasonable rates, and pets are welcome, too!
Butterfield Trail Bunkhouse
23033 T Road, (785) 769-3194
Nature lovers, history enthusiasts, hunters and fishers love the Butterflied Trail Bunkhouse. This year-round, country retreat is located on the Butterfield Overland Despatch Trail near the Smoky Hill River and Smoky Valley Scenic Byway, and wagon ruts from the Butterfield Overland Despatch stagecoaches can be found nearby. The Bunkhouse is a non-traditional bed and breakfast set on a farm, with wildlife all around. The bunkhouse sleeps up to four and has a full kitchen and bath, with microwave, coffee maker, and cooking utensils. A different breakfast is provided each morning; with entrée, fruit, pastries and coffee and juice, with every effort to accommodate special dietary needs.
705 South 2nd St., (785) 743-5505
Econo Lodge is a pet-friendly, affordable hotel, clean, with comfortable rooms that include coffee makers, free WiFi, televisions and mini-fridges. There is on-site parking for buses and RVs and we proudly support “green” hotel practices. Econo Lodge is located on the south side of I-70 at WaKeeney’s West Exit #127.
Kansas Kountry Inn,
223 S 1st St./I-70 Exit #127, (785) 743-2129
Kansas Kountry Inn located two blocks of I-70’s west Exit #127 next to Jake and Chet’s Café. It’s a moderately priced motel with WiFi Internet access and “at-door” parking for vehicles and boats. Pets are also welcome.
709 S 13th St., (785) 743-6442
Located off I-70 at Exit #128, all the rooms and suites at Super 8 include en-suite bathrooms, TVs, free WiFi, and a mini-fridge and microwave. A complimentary continental breakfast is served every morning and other on-site amenities include a laundromat, a business center and free parking for large vehicles. Kids 17 and under stay free with an adult.
WaKeeney KOA Kampground
25027 S Interstate, (785) 743-5612
The WaKeeney KOA Kampground is full of amenities for RV and traditional campers. Large pull-thru sites accommodate RVs up to 80’ and grassy tent sites are large and private. The cabins are located near laundry, restroom and shower facilities, and WiFi is accessible throughout the park. A swimming pool and dog park are on-site, and “Sophie’s Kitchen” serves a pancake breakfast every morning and ice cream every summer night. The campground is the recipient of the KOA President’s Award & the KOA Founder’s Award each year for six years in a row (2012-2017). The KOA campground is located south of I-70’s West Exit #127