We left the rocky mountains of Colorado behind and moved out onto the open plains of Kansas. What a stark difference it was from the air of the high mountain elevations to that of the lower western plains.
As we continued to drive, I was amazed to see a broad prairie under a big sky with nary an obstruction. This is our first time in Kansas, and it has really lived up to its reputation for wide-open spaces and uncrowded landscapes. After seeing the prairie vistas for several miles, we drove into surprising scenery as we headed toward our home base. A valley with deep wooded canyons, craggy bluffs and a lake awaited us at Lake Scott State Park. It made me realize that Kansas is not totally flat after all, and this was a beautiful state park.
It turns out this state park is rich in history, and it provided us with an inside look at two historic areas. One was a preserved Indian pueblo ruins dating back to the 1600s, called El Cuartelejo – meaning “old barracks or building.” This archeologically significant site dates from 1650 to 1750 A.D. and is the north-easternmost pueblo ruin in the United States. The interior rooms of the pueblo ranged in size from 10‘ x 14‘ to 16‘ x 18‘. The total structural area measured 32‘ x 50‘. What struck us after reading the plaques is that there were no windows or doors in the structure, meaning entry was gained via a ladder from the roof. This lead experts to classify the dwelling as a pueblo-type ruin.
Also nearby was the site of the Punished Woman’s Fork / Battle Canyon. The plaque at the historic marker indicated that Chief Dull Knife and Little Wolf of the Northern Cheyenne escaped from a reservation near Fort Reno, OK in 1878. Along with other men, women and children of the Cheyenne Nation, they fled to western Kansas and made a stand on the bluffs of Beaver Creek. It was at this location on September 27, 1878 that Lt. Colonel William H. Lewis, the commander of Fort Dodge, was dispatched to capture and return them to Oklahoma. The women and children were hidden in a cave during the ensuing battle, and that cave is still visible today.
Lt. Colonel Lewis was mortally wounded and died while en route to Fort Wallace for medical attention. He was the last military officer killed in action within the state of Kansas. The Cheyenne escaped by night, crossing the Smoky Hill River and fleeing to Nebraska.
Back at our site, we considered our stop here the perfect setting to unwind and relax. Having stayed at a busy and cramped RV park back in Colorado, we relished the peace and quiet here. Watching and listening to the birds put me back in my element, and I got pictures of ones I had not seen before. Even if it was hot and humid, we enjoyed sitting outside and hanging out with our feathered friends.
Wildflowers also flourished here, with Purple Poppy Mallow blanketing the ground and Yuccas standing abundantly on the hillsides.
Next Up: Chalk Pyramids