Main Street Kansas

Caves, creek crossings and beaver dams: Kanopolis State Park delights year-round

MARQUETTE, Kan. (KSNW) - While many Kansans head to state reservoirs for the boating and swimming in the summer, what's really special about Kanopolis State Park is available year-round. 

"We've got caves and creek crossings and beaver dams," said Wendy Bowles, a state conservation worker.

Bowles knows the terrain well; after all, she's supervised the trail system at Kanopolis State Park for 28 years.

"We have a handicap trail," said Bowles."We have two trails around ponds. We have a beginner mountain bike trail."

Almost 30 miles in all, including the state's largest horseback riding trail. 

Along the way, you'll see wildflowers and plants from the desert, and ferns from the rainforest-- even wild grapes and sandhill plums. Plus, lots of wildlife! 

"We've got a bald eagles nest in the park now that's produced nine bald eagles in the last four years," said Bowles.     

If nature lovers don't want to hike the trails, they can drive the Legacy Trail. It's a self-guided auto tour around Kanopolis Lake, 27 historical sites over 75 miles.

One of the most popular places is Faris Caves.

A short walk from the road reveals three manmade caves hollowed out by a Colorado miner in the 1880's.

"The roof has an arch to it, and you can see the marks from the tools he used," said local historian, Jim Gray, who calls himself "The Cowboy."  He fits the part, dressed in tall boots, a vest, bandana, and big cowboy hat.

He says the miner lived in the caves several years, carving out a chimney for a wood stove.

"Once you get these rock walls heated up, they'll actually radiate heat back to you," said Gray.

The Faris family later bought the land and used the caves as a schoolhouse for several kids in the area. 

"Later on, the Farises made this into their generator room and poured this concrete stand to hold the generator," said Gray, pointing out a crude stone pedestal.

The cool room made it ideal to store milk and food.

Outside the caves you can still see petroglyphs, evidence of ancient Indians who lived there.

"At one time, that native culture lived there maybe a thousand years ago on this bluff overlooking the Smoky Hill River," said Gray.

So much to explore, but no matter what trail visitors choose, this cowboy promises you'll find something especially rare these days.

"It's so peaceful and quiet and so relaxing," said Gray. "The whole world disappears."


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