Thirteen miles of Route 66 cuts through a tiny corner of southeast Kansas making this the shortest section in any state. Just before entering Kansas the State Line Liquor Store, a remnant of the days of strict liquor laws in Kansas, displays a couple of old gas pumps.
This is not the Kansas of endless corn and sunflowers fields. The three towns along the route sit on top of the 2,500 square miles tri-state lead and zinc deposit. The mines closed in 1960s devastating the economies of the towns and leaving a legacy of sinkholes and polluted soil, water and air. Picher and Cardin, just across the border in Oklahoma, are now ghost towns, evacuated as part of the Tar Creek Superfund Site cleanup.
Cars on the Route at the north end of Galena is a little gift and snack bar in a restored Kan-O-Tex gas station. An old tow truck, the inspiration for Tow Tater from the movie Cars, is parked beside the building.
Empty buildings line the north end of Main Street.
The east to west crossroad of Hwy 66 is faring a little better. The Galena Mining and Historical Museum looks interesting but it was already closed for the day when we arrived. :-(
The tiny town of Riverton is the location of the Old Riverton Store which has been in operation since 1925. They sell made to order sandwiches, canned goods, staples, fruit, plants and gifts.
This little roadside park is a good place to spend the night but the traffic along 69A means it’s noisy. A few spots are wide enough to pull off. Large RVs will fit in just one spot.
A short distance down 66 another small park has an information kiosk. The parking lot is large enough for RVs.
The Marsh Rainbow Arch Bridge, designed by architect James Marsh is made with reinforced concrete. Although hundreds of these bridges were built during the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s, few remain today. This is the only one left along Route 66.
Baxter Springs got it’s start as a cattle market town and the population doubled with the discovery of lead and zinc. Because this was where most of the mine owners and operators chose to live city ordinances greatly limited any mining within city limits and saved the area from most of the pollution. The Baxter Springs Museum has many artifacts and good displays covering Civil War action in the area, Native Americans, mining and other local history. Don’t miss the 1,145’ hand carved chain.
Most of the museum is accessible. One exhibit with a boardwalk does not have a ramp to access it. Visiting the basement level requires exiting the building and traveling along the street for a short distance to access another entrance.
The parking lot is large enough for RVs.
The city has renovated a 1930 gas station to serve as their Visitor Center. We didn’t see the inside because it was closed. Short RVs will fit in the lot.