Stop at the Hoisington Welcome Center (tel. 620/653-2208; Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.) on Main Street for a copy of the pole art scavenger hunt brochure, a Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic Byway driving tour guide, map of the Cheyenne Bottoms basin, or any other information about Hoisington. The Pole Art Walking Tour on Main Street depicts the birdlife and nature of Cheyenne Bottoms. The metal art banners of local artists Bruce and Brent Bitter can also be seen here at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center. For local eats, try Shaney’s or the Tap Room.
Remember the good old days when a haircut at Casey’s Barber Shop cost a nickel? On Main Street, historic downtown storefronts were recreated by Miller’s of Claflin. Inside, the buildings showcase one of the largest furniture stores in Kansas. Learn more about the local history by visiting the Claflin Historical Society Museum (111 E. Hamilton St.). Claflin is located on Highway 4, east of Hoisington. North of Claflin are seven historic limestone bridges constructed by the Works Project Administration. To see what’s happening in town, visit the message barrel on Main Street.
Where the river bends is the county seat of Barton County, Great Bend. Attractions include a zoo, waterpark, museums, and historic sites. Hike or bike public trails located along the Arkansas River or cast a line into Stone Lake. For Byway travelers planning to stay in the area, Great Bend has a variety of lodging and dining options to choose from. For more information go to visitgreatbend.com or contact the Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau (tel. 620/792-2750 or toll free 877/427-9299; firstname.lastname@example.org); the office, located at 3007 10th Street, is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
If you’ve spent time in western Kansas, you know the forecast usually calls for wind. Underground tunnels were built along Main St. to shelter people going about daily business and shopping. Call 620/564-2400 to schedule a tour of Ellinwood’s tunnels. The rich history of Ellinwood can also be seen aboveground in historic buildings and antique stores. Agriculture is the main business in rural Kansas; celebrate the After Harvest Festival the 3rd weekend of July. Enjoy the tastes of Kansas with steaks or brats from the Ellinwood Packing Plant or vino from the Dozier Winery. Before prohibition Kansas was 2nd in U.S. wine production.
Spacious skies and amber waves of grain describe the beauty that many Kansans are proud to call home. In the small town of Hudson (pop. 125) you’ll find the one of the last independent flour mills in the U.S. For over 100 years Stafford County Flour Mills Company has been producing high quality flour branded Hudson Cream Flour. You’ll feel right at home at the Wheatland Cafe, which serves a Sunday buffet (11 a.m.-2 p.m.) of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, veggies, fresh-baked bread, and homemade ice cream for dessert. Visit Hudson in August for the annual Ham N Jam or Chicken Ride. Are you hungry yet?
Stafford is known as the Gateway to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Early settlers called the place Sod Town and their simple dwellings were replaced by beautiful homes and buildings that are on the National Register of Historic Places. Stay in one of the unique bed and breakfast locations of Henderson Inn and participate in hands-on activities, such as picking sandhill plums and making jelly. Chocolate lovers will enjoy Stafford’s Chocolate Sampler Afair, a fundraiser to promote local tourism. Try the homemade pie at Curtis Cafe (104 S. Main St.; open 6 a.m.-2 p.m.; closed Fridays), decorated with hundreds of jigsaw puzzles.
The Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway route begins or ends a few miles north of St. John at the intersection of US 281 and NE 70th St. Look for tall cottonwoods (the state tree of Kansas), cattle, sandhills, and wildflowers between St. John and Quivira. The first structure built in St. John was a small Mormon church, known as the “Church on the Hill.” Other attractions include the St. John Science Museum and African-American Martin Cemetery. Looking for a bite to eat? Try the Pueblo Nuevo for authentic Mexican food or a Kansas T-bone steak (806 E. 1st Ave.; Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-8 p.m.).