Native stone. That’s a term for the natural layer of rock which underlies part of eastern Kansas and creates the remarkable natural topography known as the Flint Hills. In the northern Flint Hills, the state of Kansas has designated a highway route where rich history, natural rock outcroppings, and beautiful stone buildings can all be found. It is known as the Native Stone Scenic Byway. Now there is a new way to access audio descriptions of these attractions and it’s the subject of today’s Kansas Profile.
Abby Amick is director of Wabaunsee County Economic Development and coordinator of a grant from the Kansas Humanities Council to develop these audio scripts.
“We wanted to feature the wonderful culture, history, and attractions which are found along the Native Stone Scenic Byway,” Abby said.
The byway itself was designated by the state of Kansas in 2004. It is a 48-mile route through Shawnee and Wabaunsee counties on parts of highways K-4 and K-99 between Topeka and Alma. Specifically, it is located between the junction of Highway K-4 and Glick Road, 3 miles south of Interstate 70, on the east and the junction of Highway K-99 and I-70 on the west.
A Native Stone Scenic Byway committee applied for a grant to create audio files describing the various features located along the byway. Those audio files would be made available online as well as on a CD to be distributed free to visitors and residents.
The Kansas Humanities Council awarded the grant in 2010. Local volunteers wrote about their communities and historic attractions along the byway. K-State Research and Extension Communications did the audio and artwork production of the CD. I was honored to be the narrator for this project. I learned a lot about the history, scenery, and attractions of this area.
“This project will honor, promote, and preserve the wonderful historic elements of native stone in the heart of the northern Flint Hills region,” Abby said. “We encourage visitors to explore and learn about both the natural wonder of rock formations and the amazing craftwork of masons who built communities with native stone.”
For example, near the eastern end of the byway is the community of Dover, home of the 1878 Sage Inn and Stagecoach Station. Near the western end of the byway is the community of Alma, known as the City of Native Stone because much of the business district consists of native stone structures built in the 1800s. On the route between those two towns is historic Eskridge, along with miles of winding creeks, undisturbed grazing land, seasonal wildflowers, farms, ranches, and native stone fences which “frame the portrait” of life in this area.
Specifically, the topics and locations included are Dover, Mission Creek, Wabaunsee County, Echo Cliff, Edmund G. Ross homesite, Keene, Keene missile site, Eskridge, Security State Bank, Lake Wabaunsee, Flint Hills cowboy culture (written by Dr. Jim Hoy), Pottawatomie Native American Indian culture (written and narrated by Jon Boursaw, a member of the Citizen Pottawatomie Nation), From Cream to Butter - the Role of Pioneer Women, Alma and Skyline Mill Creek Scenic Drive, Wabaunsee County Museum and Court House, native stone fences, Underground Railroad, Mount Mitchell, and the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church.
In June, the first CD was presented to Gov. Sam Brownback in his office in Topeka. The CDs are available while supplies last at various business locations along the byway, or from the Wabaunsee County Economic Development office in Alma. The audio files will also be available at www.wabaunsee.com. We’ll learn more about the individual features along the byway in coming weeks
Native stone. That’s the rock, which underlies the Flint Hills and is found in a natural state as well as in the homes, buildings, and barns created by craftsmen in this region. Now the history, culture, and attractions of this area are described in audio files available online and on CD for those who wish to explore the Native Stone Scenic Byway.