Route 66 in Kansas
(source National Park Service)
Miles: 14 (approx.)
With less than 14 miles of Route 66, the highway through Kansas has a distinct and important role in both national and local history. Historically, this area of Kansas was one of the most active lead mining areas in the United States, including one of the largest lead smelters in the nation, the Eagle-Picher mine. To accommodate the mining operations, the road through the area was paved in 1923. For this reason, it was selected to become part of the majestic sweep of Route 66 as it crossed the nation on its way from Missouri to Oklahoma. Kansas shares the distinction with Illinois of being one of only two states to have their entire lengths of Route 66 hard-surfaced when first commissioned in 1926.
Kansas has another distinction: It is the only state that was completely bypassed when the interstate replaced Route 66 in 1961. I-44 goes directly from Missouri to Oklahoma passing just east of the Kansas state line. However, in Kansas travelers can still experience small town character and hospitality that characterizes the best of Route 66, with opportunities to drive original roadbed over the Galena viaduct; visit with vibrant business owners; stroll across the rainbow marsh arch bridge; and visit the restored Phillip’s 66 station, which is now operating as a visitor center.
Preservation efforts have been strong since 1992 when not one but two associations (Kansas Historic Route 66 Association, Route 66 Association of Kansas) were formed to preserve the local heritage of the route. Several revitalization projects have since been undertaken, and in 2011, local citizens worked to acquire state Kansas State Historic Byway status. The National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program has awarded six cost-share grant awards for projects in Kansas, including the restoration of Eisler Brosther’s Store in Riverton, the Phillip’s 66 station in Baxter Springs, and the Galena Viaduct.
Old gas station in Baxter Springs, Kansas that is the towns tourist and visitors center.
Enjoy the Journey
Dean Walker, President of the Kansas Historic Route 66 Association. Dean is credited with being a large part of the inspiration for the personality of Mater the tow truck, a character in the Disney/Pixar film.
Baxter Springs, Kansas. A classic "Main Street America" town