State's 1st historic byway proposed

OAKLEY — It's been a journey not at all unlike that of settlers heading west to reach the western Kansas frontier.

In fact, it follows a trail of what settlers saw when they headed west.

Nearly two years ago, community leaders from Logan, Wallace and Scott counties agreed to seek a scenic byway designation for a 105-mile strip of highway stretching from Scott City to Oakley to Sharon Springs.

But when they came forward with their proposal, it was suggested that perhaps the route would be better suited as a historic byway.

' 'We would be the state's first historic byway,'' said Raelene Keller, an Oakley resident who is leading the charge to make the designation reality. ''It's the very same thing, but it stresses the historic component.''

Kansas already has nine scenic byways, including the Smoky Valley and Post Rock byways in the area.

The route — to be called the Western Plains Historic Byway — would focus on historic sites along the way.

It would head north out of Scott City on U.S. 83, taking a short diversion along K-95 about 10 miles to the north. K-95 passes near two historic sites: Battle Canyon, the last Indian battle in Kansas, and Scott State Lake.

The route continues north as K-95 connects with U.S. 83, until it reaches Oakley, then continues west on U.S. 40 to the eastern edge of Sharon Springs.

There are a number of diversions along the highway or just a few miles away.

In Oakley, for example, there's the larger-than-life Buffalo Bill sculpture on the city's west side.

At the Scott-Logan County line, there's both Keystone Gallery and Monument Rocks to either side of U.S. 83.

Also in Oakley, there's the Fick Fossil Museum. Southwest of Oakley, there's the 17,500-acre Smoky Valley Ranch, with 1- and 5-mile hiking trails.

To the west, there's the Butterfield Trail Museum in Russell Springs, and the Fort Wallace Cemetery and Fort Wallace Museum.

' 'We have many other sites along the way that we're pointing out,'' Keller said.

Those other historic sites ultimately will be included in an array of information made available to travelers, either through brochures, kiosks, signs or perhaps a CD motorists will be able to take with them as they drive the route.