In Northwest Kansas, travelers can experience the ”badlands” of Kansas and wide-open scenic views on the Western Vistas Historic Byway.
The 102-mile route begins in at Scott City on U.S Highway 83 and ends on U.S. 40 in Sharon Springs. Crossing through Logan, Scott, and Wallace counties, this was the first designated historic byway in the state and the 10th Kansas byway to receive official designation from the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Western Vistas features seven National Historic sites and six museums as well as spectacular scenery, limestone formations that reach to the sky, and numerous recreational activities. Wide-open vistas also provide glimpses of wildlife including turkey, prairie dogs, deer, buffalo, and pronghorn. Museums along the highway tell the stories of the early settlers, pioneers, cowboys, soldiers, and Native Americans of the area.
This rugged landscape, interspersed with plains was created by an ancient sea that extended from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Circle. When the water receded and erosion set in, the sea floor’s limestone layers became not only flat plains but oddly placed, shaped buttes, and other chalk formations. The region has long been a fossil hunting area with excavations beginning with regularity in the 1870s. Some fossil records of the area included previously unknown and extinct animals, such as flying reptiles and toothed birds.
The byway offers opportunities for visitors to experience the El Quarteljo Puebloruins, view unique rock formations such as Monument Rocks and “Little Jerusalem” and explore the various cultures and events that played a central role in America’s western expansion.
To be designated as historic, a byway must have resources that are significant historically, be numerous, be visible, and have a setting or character that is complementary to the resources.
The historic byway starts at Scott City, passes through Scott Lake State Park on K-95, returning to U.S. 83, then north to the U.S. 83/U.S. 40 intersection at Oakley in Logan County and west on U.S. 40 to Sharon Springs in Wallace County.
Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser-Alexander/Legends of Kansas, August 2020.
Kansas Department of Transportation
Western Vistas Historic Byway