Route 66 in Kansas
Created | Updated Aug 13, 2012
The Main Street of America: Route 66 | Illinois | Missouri | Kansas | Oklahoma | Texas | New Mexico | Arizona | California
Approximately five miles west of Joplin, Missouri, you will cross the Missouri/Kansas state line and begin your travels along the 13.2 miles of Route 66 in Kansas. The road may be short, but it isn't short of interesting stops. A tour of Kansas on Route 66 will take you through the communities of Galena, Riverton and Baxter Springs.
Kansas is the only US 66 state that retains all of its original mileage.
Galena and Riverton
Just past the state line and before Galena is a stretch known as Hell's Half Acre. This land is in utter ruin, the result of relentless abuse by the mining operations in the area. The town of Galena, like many in that part of the midwest, was founded for its location in the midst of extensive lead and zinc deposits. The history of Galena - once a thriving mining town - and mining operations in the area, is chronicled in the Howard Litch Historical and Mining Museum in Galena. Housed in a former Katy1 train depot which was donated for that purpose, the museum also contains relics of old 66. After exploring Galena Mother Road travellers can spend the night in the Galena Motel.
A few miles up the road is Riverton, Kansas. In the middle of Riverton at 7109 Southeast Highway 66 is the Eisler Brothers Old Riverton Store. The store has been in business since 1925; originally it was known as the Williams Store, built by Leo Williams. Over the years ownership has passed through a few different hands and has been with the Eislers since the early 1970s. The Eisler Brothers still run the store much as Leo did, selling souvenirs of the Mother Road, flowers, and serving sandwiches at the deli counter. Just south of town is the Rainbow Bridge, the last bridge of its type on Route 66. So named for its shape, the arched bridge structure resembles a rainbow, the bridge has been restored and is still in use between Riverton and Baxter Springs.
Baxter Springs is one of four authentic Civil War battlesites in the state of Kansas, site of the Baxter Springs Massacre in 1863. After forging an attack on Fort Blair Confederate troops met a Union detachment en route back to the fort. The Confederates called for surrender, then shot the Union soldiers anyway, many several times. But the path that 66 takes through Baxter goes back even further than the Civil War.
The path has been altered at times over the last couple of centuries and the road has been alternately called State Road 69A as it is today or Military Road as parts of it are still marked. Legend holds that this segment of Route 66 follows the original alignment of the Black Dog Trail, created by Chief Black Dog of the Osage Indians in 1803.
Recently opened but in a historic location is the Cafe on the Route and the Little Brick Inn at 1101 Military Road. The businesses occupy an 1870s building that was once the Crowell Bank. The bank was robbed in 1876 by Jesse James.