Kansas Rocks on the Native Stone Scenic Byway

Signage for Native Stone Scenic Byway Kansas (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Signage for the Native Stone Scenic Byway between Manhattan and Topeka, Kansas (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

There are few road trips that I enjoy more than exploring U.S. scenic byways and heritage highways.

The roads themselves – plus their towns and attractions – have so much history, especially those that follow the paths of centuries of travelers, like the Natchez Trace and the Santa Fe Trail. I feel ridiculously fortunate to be able to do some Tourism Currents educational work with the National Scenic Byway Foundation, too.

The 12 Kansas scenic byways in particular are very diverse, with both national and state designations.

I’ve written here on the blog about the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway, one of my favorites, but also had a chance recently to explore a smaller one, the Native Stone Scenic Byway a little southeast of Manhattan, Kansas.

Native Stone Scenic Byway Kansas stone wall plus highway in distance photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Kansas Native Stone Scenic Byway stone wall section on the highway (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

It was late in the day when I drove the byway, and the soft glow of a setting sun highlighted the lush green grasses and the crevices of the intricate limestone fences.

Kansas Native Stone Scenic Byway at sunset (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Kansas Native Stone Scenic Byway at sunset (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

But, why are there miles of these stone fences?

An historical marker on the byway explains….

“The 1867 law abolishing the open range provided for payment of 40 cents per rod (16 1/2 feet) to landowners to build and maintain a 4 1/2 foot stone fence. Stone was plentiful and our pioneers built miles of stone fences.”

All of that handcrafted masonry doesn’t take care of itself; property owners with fences work hard to maintain them.

Many even have a byway historical marker like this one….

Native Stone Scenic Byway in Kansas stone wall restoration sign (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

A stone wall restoration sign on the Native Stone Scenic Byway in Kansas (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

There is rolling farm and ranch land on both sides of the road. Many of the buildings are made with that same limestone.

Can you imagine having to turn up all of those rocks and lug them around?

Kansas farm scene at sunset on the Native Stone Scenic Byway (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Kansas farm scene on the Native Stone Scenic Byway (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

I stopped in the small town of Alma, Kansas, at one end of the byway, and admired the stonework on many of their downtown buildings. It was late in the day on a Sunday, though, so just about everything was closed.

Someday I’ll go back to try the Alma Bakery and Sweet Shoppe, because what goes better with miles of stones than miles of Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread, German Spitzbuben cookies, or Sunflower Brittle?

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