Kansas has a wide variety of interesting places to visit. They range from the fossil beds and unusual geological formations such as Rock City, on the High Plains, to the wheel ruts still discernible along the old Santa Fe and Oregon trails, to the many historic sites and buildings found throughout the state.
There are also numerous facilities for outdoor recreation in the state. Nearly every state park and recreation area in Kansas either includes or adjoins a water area, and almost all of them offer facilities for boating, fishing, and swimming. In addition, many of the state-administered park areas also have facilities for picnicking, camping, hiking, and horseback riding. Three national wildlife refuges are administered by the federal government: the Flint Hills refuge in the east, the Kirwin refuge in the north central part of the state, and the Quivira refuge in south central Kansas. Cheyenne Bottoms, near Great Bend, and other wildlife areas are administered by the state.
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka commemorates the landmark decision by the Supreme Court of the United States, which in 1954 overturned racial segregation in the nation's education systems. The site is located at the Monroe Elementary School, which was attended by Linda Brown whose lawsuit against the school system brought about the supreme court ruling.
Other historic sites in Kansas preserve military forts used during the westward expansion. Fort Larned National Historic Site was an outpost established midway along the Santa Fe Trail to protect travelers and mail deliveries. Its stone buildings are among the best-preserved relics of the western wars with Native Americans. Fort Scott National Historic Site, first established by the United States Army to enforce the peace among settlers and Native Americans, played a role in the Mexican War (1846-1848) and was reopened during the Civil War. Fort Leavenworth, in northeastern Kansas near Leavenworth, dates from 1827 and is the oldest active U.S. military post west of the Mississippi River.
It is the seat of the U.S. Army General Staff College. Fort Riley was established as a cavalry post early in the 1850s. It is also an active post. The first Capitol of Kansas lies within Fort Riley in northeastern Kansas. The building, located at what was then called Pawnee, served very briefly as the seat of the territorial government in July 1855. It is now maintained as a public museum. Also at Fort Riley is the United States Cavalry Museum.
The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve protects another kind of historic resource, the native grasslands that once covered a large portion of the interior of the United States. The preserve, dedicated in 1998, contains 10,894 acres of prairie land located in the Flint Hills area of east-central Kansas. The National Park Service administers the preserve, which is part of the largest tract of tallgrass prairie still remaining on the continent.
There are 25 state parks and recreation areas in Kansas and many historic sites. The largest recreation area is centered on Milford Lake, located in the central part of the state. Other large state parks include Fall River, Toronto, and Elk City, all located in southeastern Kansas; Cheney, Kanopolis, and Sand Hills, all in the central part of the state; Clinton, Perry, and Tuttle Creek, all in northeastern Kansas; Prairie Dog, Cedar Bluff, and Lake Scott, which are in the northwestern part of the state; and Glen Elder, in north central Kansas.
Pawnee Rock Park, a historic site in central Kansas near Great Bend, contains a sandstone mass 80 feet high that was one of the most famous landmarks on the Santa Fe Trail. The John Brown Museum, at Osawatomie in eastern Kansas, includes the log cabin where the famous abolitionist often stayed. The site of a former Pawnee village, now containing an archaeological museum, lies in northern Kansas near Republic. The Hollenberg Pony Express Station, in northeastern Kansas near Hanover, is claimed to be the only pony express station in the country that has been preserved in its original, unaltered condition. It houses a small pioneer museum. Other state historic sites are the Iowa, Sac, and Fox Mission at Highland, the Shawnee Mission in Johnson County, the Kaw Indian Mission at Council Grove, Marais des Cygnes Massacre Memorial Park in Linn County, the Fort Hays Historical Park at Hays, and the Edward H. Funston House near Iola, home to two prominent Kansans.
Many of the places of interest in Kansas are closely associated with 19th-century history, including Old Front Street and the Boot Hill Museum, in Dodge City, which is a replica of the city's notorious Front Street as it appeared in the late 1870s. There are similar front street reproductions in Abilene and Wichita. The Dalton Museum in Coffeyville preserves relics of the notorious bank robbers, the Dalton Gang.