Making its way over the Smoky Hills of north central Kansas, the Post Rock Scenic Byway winds through 18 miles of fields and prairie across hills, creeks, and valleys, displaying numerous stone fence posts for which this route was named.
The miles of stone fenceposts on the largely treeless plains are a tribute to the ingenuity of early pioneers who solved their fencing problems by quarrying and shaping limestone slabs. The stone was quarried from a rock layer near the surface. This chalky limestone rock has a relatively uniform thickness of 8-9 inches. When freshly quarried, it is soft enough to be sawed, notched, drilled, or shaped with hand tools. However, after prolonged exposure to air, it hardens and becomes weather-resistant. Many communities also have interesting buildings constructed of stone posts quarried in the area, including churches, homes, schoolhouses, barns, businesses, and bridges that still stand.
Along the byway, running from Wilson, across Wilson Lake Dam, to Lucas, visitors can enjoy a range of wildlife, wildflowers, and rich grazing land with native grasses.
Wilson, in Ellsworth County, is home to many historic limestone buildings, such as the Wilson Opera House Museum. The Midland Hotel in Wilson was built in 1899 and was the most magnificent facility in the Midwest. The hotel was recently restored to its original splendor. The Wilson City Jail, built in about 1911, is viewable year-round. It was initially used for a water tower with a jail at the bottom.
Various geological formations in stone post country may be seen in road cuts north and south of Wilson Lake.
Wilson Lake is also one of the state’s premier spots for fishing, hiking, water skiing, and camping. The lake covers 9,000 acres, and anglers can seek white bass, walleye, striped, small-mouth, and large-mouth bass. Wilson Lake and Wildlife Area, more than 225 species of birds are known to visit in a year. Rest areas, trails, picnic areas, and campgrounds offer a variety of recreational opportunities. In addition, the area maintains the 21.5-mile-long Switchgrass Mountain Bike Trail, one of the best mountain bike trails in Kansas. A six-mile segment of the byway is adjacent to the Wilson Lake recreational area with scenic turnouts that overlook the dam and offer vistas of the lake and the valley below the dam.
The byway offers scenic, recreational, geological, and agricultural viewing opportunities.
Visitors will discover four faces carved into the limestone fence posts along the byway. The faces were carved by California Artist Fred Whitman and are of Lucas residents.
There are cultural festivals in the towns at the ends of the byway: the Czech Festival on the last weekend of July in Wilson, the Adams Apple Festival/Highland Games on Saturday before Labor Day weekend in Lucas. Wilson, at the south end of the byway, is home to the Historic Midland Railroad Hotel and the round limestone jail.
The Lucas community, at the north end of the byway, is called the Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas. It is home to the Garden of Eden, a tourist attraction on the National Register of Historic Places. It consists of over 150 folk art concrete statutes created by S.P. Dinsmoor, a Civil War veteran. His body lies in a glass coffin in a mausoleum he built on his former property. Lucas is also home to the Grassroots Art Center, Ms. Debble’s Rock Garden, Bowl Plaza, the “Blingiest” public restroom, the World’s Largest Travel Plate, and a grassroots art mural on Main Street.