Kansas Historic Route 66 Byway
The waters of the Spring River and its tributaries have shaped this land and its settlement.
The Spring River and the waters that feed it, such as Brush, Shoal and Short Creek, carve their way through this corner of Cherokee County. For centuries these wild waters were the dominant feature of the landscape.
Soon after the Civil War, a white settler named John Archer operated a cable ferry near Baxter Springs. He brought individual passengers and wagon teams alike across the river for 5 and 25 cent fares, respectively.
The first bridge crossed the river in 1886. Spurred by the promise of hydroelectric power, construction of a large dam commenced in 1904. The Empire District Electric District [sic] Company opened the Riverton Generation Station in 1910. The dam and the electrical plant remain in existence today. The Riverton Plant, located just south of the Byway, produces over 280 megawatts of electricity.
The discovery of lead and zinc near Galena in 1877 forever changed the fortunes of this landscape and it's inhabitants.
Large deposits of lead were accidentally found near the banks of Short Creek in the spring of 1877. Within weeks, dozens of prospectors were sinking shafts in the area. The City of Galena, was incorporated in June of that year.
That bonanza ultimately spawned an industry that included 81 mining camps spread across three states. Between 1877 and 1950, Tri-State mineral production exceeded $1 billion and accounted for 1/2 of all domestic lead and zinc.
During its hey-day, the industry brought great prosperity to the region. The environmental degradation it wrought, however, has left a more indelible legacy. The ground that yielded those in[i]tial discoveries, just north of Galena, is today littered with piles of crushed rock and largely barren of vegetation. Known as Hell's Half Acre, this landscape is a reminder of what can result from unchecked mineral extraction.
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Empire Power Dam Falls
Located near the confluence of Spring River and Shoal Creek, this spillway is Kansas' largest man-made waterfall.
Bounded by wooded hills, limestone crags and caverns, this stream is typical of the Kansas Ozarks.
Mother Lode of the Mother Road
The Galena Historical & Mining Museum tells the stories of the minerals and the miners that made this corner of Kan[s]as an economic engine.
Slicing a half-mile underneath the hills south of Galena, it is the only place in Kansas where you will find cave-dwellers like the grotto salamander.