TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – With more than 2,600 National Historic Landmarks nationwide, you might be surprised that some are right here in the heart of America.
The Sunflower State is home to 10 parks that are National Historic Landmarks, several being trails that span hundreds of miles across several states. These bear great significance not just for Kansas residents but for many others in the U.S.
National Historic Landmarks are described by the National Park Service (NPS) as historic properties that illustrate the heritage of the U.S. They consist of historic buildings, sites, structures, objects and districts. Each site is unique and shows off a part of American history and culture.
1. Brown v. Board of Education – Shawnee County
A significant leap in achieving equality nationwide came through the famous court case of Brown v. Board of Education in the 1950s. The historic site in Topeka stands now as a museum dedicated to telling the story of how segregation in schools across the country came to an end. It was recently expanded by a bill signed by President Joe Biden in 2022.
You can visit the site at 1515 SE Monroe St. in Topeka. Click here to learn more.
2. California National Historic Trail
More than 250,000 emigrants traveled to California in search of gold and rich farmlands during the 1840s and 1850s, some of them traveling from starting points in Kansas. Marked as one of the largest mass migration events in U.S. history, the trail covers over 5,000 miles and crosses parts of 10 states.
Check here for places on the trail you can visit in Kansas.
3. Fort Larned – Pawnee County
This army post on the Santa Fe Trail can be found near the town of Larned and is recognized for its role in the history of the Indian Wars era during the 1860s and 1870s. Buildings made of sandstone that gave shelter to soldiers, known as the Guardians of the Santa Fe Trail, still stand today and can be visited throughout the year.
The site can be found at 1767 Kansas Highway 156 in Larned. Click here to learn more about this historic site.
4. Fort Scott – Bourbon County
Established in 1842, Fort Scott stands in Southeast Kansas near the Missouri border. It is unique as it is the only NPS historic site that was directly involved in the era known as “Bleeding Kansas.” While no battles were fought at the fort, it served as a base for Union soldiers during the Civil War
Fort Scott can be found at 199 Old Fort Blvd. in Fort Scott. Click here for more information on the site.
5. Lewis & Clark Trail
Covering more than 4,900 miles across 16 states, this trail follows the historic outbound and inbound routes of the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1803-1806 that started in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and ran all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The trail follows the Missouri River on the Kansas-Missouri border.
Click here for more information on the trail.
6. Nicodemus – Graham County
Settled by former African-American slaves from Kentucky following the end of the Civil War, many saw Kansas as a promised land and made the journey to the Sunflower State. The town serves as a reminder of the involvement of African-Americans in the westward expansion and settlement of the Great Plains. The town is the oldest and only remaining Black settlement west of the Mississippi River.
The Nicodemus Historical Society can be found at 611 5th St. in Bogue. Click here to find out more about the site.
7. Oregon Trail
Running from Missouri all the way to Oregon, the trail covers more than 2,000 miles. Remnants of the trail can still be seen today in ruts and traces across the six states that it runs through. The trail stands as a testament to the struggles and sacrifices of settlers trying to reach the west coast of the U.S.
More information on this historic trail can be found here.
8. Santa Fe Trail
Cutting across Kansas is a trail used by American and Mexican traders during the 1800s. The trail also saw heavy use during the Mexican-American War, stagecoach lines, missionaries, gold miners and others. The trail’s use faded with the development of the Santa Fe Railroad in 1880.
Click here to learn more about this trail system.
9. Pony Express Trail
This national historic trail follows the route taken by riders with the Pony Express riding from Missouri to California carrying mail. The trail runs through eight states over more than 1,800 miles and was, at the time, the most direct and practical way to communicate before the arrival of the telegraph.
Click here to learn more about this historic trail.
10. Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve – Chase County
With less than 4% of the original prairie that once covered 170 million acres of North America left, the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve stands as one of the last refuges for this ecosystem. The park was established in 1996 near the City of Emporia and covers around 11,000 acres. It is the home of wildflowers, scenic vistas, bison and other wildlife.
Click here to learn more about the prairie.