“When we touch the rock, a little cold shiver begins; this is the place where Coronado found that cities of gold are dust, that the world had led him north beyond civilization, beyond what was good.
“And right down onto this prairie grass he fell. His helmet tumbled right here.”
– Kansas poet William Stafford’s reflections on Coronado Heights
One of the most picturesque spots in Kansas to view a sunset is Coronado Heights near Lindsborg.
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It is the highest point among the surrounding Smoky Hills and is believed to be one of the sites where Spanish conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado’s expedition visited in 1541 and ultimately where he gave up his search for gold.
Since 1936, a Spanish-style castle has sat atop the majestic hill, built by workers in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration program.
But now, after 78 years in the Kansas winds, storms and sun, the castle is in need of repair.
“In the last few years, we’ve noticed deterioration,” said Lenora Lynam, treasurer of the Smoky Valley Historical Association. “The deck on the castle is sagging. It is nothing dangerous. Architectural engineers tell us it won’t come crashing down. But the castle has been standing since the mid-1930s, and nothing has ever been done to it.”
The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It is not only a historic landmark but also a natural platform of Dakota Formation sandstone, featuring a scenic overlook and rising more than 300 feet above the Smoky Hill River Valley. Generations of Kansans have picnicked, flown kites, climbed, viewed the stars and waved into cameras at this scenic location.
Although Coronado Heights is in Saline County, the property is owned and maintained by the Smoky Valley Historical Association in Lindsborg, Lynam said.
The group is hosting a capital campaign to raise money for the renovation of the park.
Work will be done in two phases. Phase One will involve making major repairs and renovations to the castle and completing a facelift and improvements to the park’s restrooms. Phase Two will be rebuilding the park’s drainage system and permanent paving of the road leading to the hilltop.
This past spring, the group received a $90,000 matching funds grant from the Kansas Heritage Trust Fund. But more than $57,000 is needed for the historical association’s share of work on the building. An additional $65,000 is needed for the roadwork and drainage repair.
“We’ve been contacting people who have given gifts in the past, but, as with any repairs of vandalism and aging, we are faced with having to do some extensive work,” said Chris Abercrombie, president of the Smoky Valley Historical Association.
The group is taking its fundraising efforts statewide.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people from all sections of the state,” Abercrombie said. “They all love it. It is a destination site. People will still get in their car on a Sunday afternoon, whether they be in Ottawa or Dighton, and drive specifically to Coronado Heights to have a picnic and then drive back home.”
Donations to the Coronado Heights Park renovations can be made online by going to www.lindsborghistory.org, or checks can be made out to SVHA and sent to SVHA, P.O. Box 255, Lindsborg, KS 67456.
Getting there: From Lindsborg, follow K-4 to the west edge of town. Take Coronado Avenue three miles north to Winchester Road, then go one mile west.