The New Smoky Valley Scenic Byway’s Interpretive Signs Have Arrived in Trego County!

Dive deeper into the history and landscape of the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway at each of our recently installed interpretive panels! Each one tells the story of the historical markers and significant natural features that make our byway a Kansas state treasure.

Interpretive Signs, Eisenhower Park, F-14 JetInterpretive Signs, Eisenhower Park, F-14 Jet

An Eight Year Project Becomes Reality

The Smoky Valley Scenic Byway allows travelers to explore the history and landscape of our Northwest Kansas region. They are part of a larger joint effort between several state and tourism agencies to provide more information at 39 tourist attractions on twelve routes located across the state.

In 2010, the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) received a $220,000 National Scenic Byway grant from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for development of the Kansas Byways Interpretive Plan. Using this funding, Fermata, Inc. of Austin, TX began collecting the historical information & developed the storylines for the project.

In 2015, RDG Planning and Design of Omaha, NE began the design phase and, once finished, general contractor GSR Construction, Inc. of Lawrence, KS started working on the construction of the project. WaKeeney’s Travel and Tourism Director Cathy Albert gathered the stories and images included on the panels and in November 2018 the finished panels were installed at points of interest along the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway.

Smoky Valley Scenic Byway Highway Sign

The Smoky Valley Scenic Byway 

Exploring the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway is now easier than ever! The 60-mile, U-shaped loop is one of the easiest routes included in the Kansas byways’ system. With starting points at either Exit 127 in WaKeeney or at Ogallah, Exit 135. If you begin your journey in WaKeeney, we recommend starting at the F-14 Jet in Eisenhower Park, where you’ll find three signs that tell the story of WaKeeney and Trego County.

Interpretive Sign, Eisenhower Park, F-14 Jet

Interpretive Sign, Eisenhower Park, F-14 Jet

Traveling Through the Smoky Valley

For over a hundred years people have been traveling through the Smoky Valley. Early trails brought settlers to our prairies and a few decades later the American love of the road got them out on the highways that followed those same routes.  In 1956, Kansas native President Dwight D. Eisenhower directed his engineers to route his massive interstate project through the Smoky Valley, and, today, I-70 brings people from all over the world to Trego County.

Trego - Interapretive Signs3Interpretive Sign, Eisenhower Park, F-14 Jet

Settling the Western Smoky Valley and the “Queen City of the High Plains”

Before WaKeeney was the “Christmas City of the High Plains” it wore the crown of a queen. Originally assigned the moniker of “Queen City of the High Plains,” WaKeeney began as a frontier town in 1878 and soon grew to be a center of trade in our county. All this information and much more is detailed on the panel entitled “Settling the Western Smoky Valley.”

Trego - Interprative Signs5Interpretive Sign, Eisenhower Park, F-14 Jet

 “The Earth Provides Shelter and Beauty”

Ingenuity has always been a part of the history of the Smoky Valley. Evidence of this is found in the beautiful creamy-white limestone buildings that dot our landscape. Using rock cut from local quarries, our founding fathers created the churches, schools, and civic and government buildings that were the anchors of Trego County communities. Find out more about the sturdy construction and quality materials that were created by these innovative builders on the “Stone Buildings” interpretative panel.

 

Kiosk, 12 miles south of WaKeeney on Hwy 283

The Smoky Valley Scenic Byway 

The kiosk located 12-miles south of WaKeeney on Hwy. 283 features a double-sided informative panel. It features facts and images about the natural beauty you’ll find along the landscape, as well as a replica of a Butterfield Overland Despatch marker. The original markers helped to guide the earliest travelers along a pioneer trail. 

 

Interpretive Signs, Cedar Bluff Reservoir, South of Smoky Hill River Bridge

Cedar Bluff Reservoir and State Park

A favorite stop along the byway is Cedar Bluff Reservoir and State Park. The reservoir and its dam were constructed in 1949 by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to provide water for flood control, irrigation, and the region’s water supply, as well as for recreation. Throughout the decades it has become a natural wildlife reserve and popular playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Three interpretative panels placed in the parking area south of Smoky Hill River Bridge tell the story of Cedar Bluff and include a map of the many inlets where camping, fishing, and water sports are enjoyed.

SVSB Kiosk Attractions

The Smoky Valley Scenic Byway

Planning Your Trip on the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway

Take a trip on the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway and look for our new interpretive signs to learn more about Western Kansas and the history of Trego County!

If you begin your journey in WaKeeney we recommend starting at

  1. F-14 Jet in Eisenhower Park.
  2. Go South 12 miles on Hwy. 283 to the kiosk.
  3. Continue South 14 miles to Hwy. 4 at Ransom.
  4. Turn East and travel 9-miles on Hwy. 4 to Brownell.
  5. Travel North 10-miles on Hwy. 147 to Cedar Bluff Reservoir.
  6. Continue traveling North on Hwy. 147 for 16-miles to end at I-70 in Ogallah, Exit 135.

Each sign provides directions along the route where you can stop and enjoy the wonders of nature, historical sites, and geological wonders of the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway.

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