Kansas National Parks
America's westward expansion is inextricably tied to Kansas. Join the adventure and #FindYourPark in Kansas.
Kansas National Parks
5 National Parks in Kansas
Table of Contents
Other NPS-Affiliated Sites in Kansas
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site - Topeka, KS
The Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, designated on October 26, 1992, is significant in the history of the American Civil Rights Movement. The site commemorates the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education, which marked a pivotal moment in the fight against racial segregation in American public schools. The case involved the legal challenge to the segregated public school system in Topeka and ultimately led to the Court's unanimous decision declaring "separate but equal" education facilities unconstitutional. This ruling had a profound impact on desegregating public schools across the United States and became a cornerstone in the ongoing struggle for civil rights.
The site features the Monroe Elementary School, one of the schools central to the landmark court case, preserved as a museum. Inside, visitors can experience exhibits, interactive displays, and multimedia presentations that provide a thorough understanding of the history of segregation in American education and the courageous efforts to dismantle it. The park also hosts ranger-led programs and events that delve into the civil rights movement and its impact on the nation.
The site was authorized in 1992 and signed into law by President George H. W. Bush.
California National Historic Trail - CA, CO, ID, KS, MO, NE, NV, OR, UT, WY
The California National Historic Trail is an incredible 2,000 miles long and recounts the journey of over 250,000 people who made their way to California during the 1840's and 50's searching for gold, prosperity, and a better life. It was the greatest mass migration in American history. The Trail runs roughly from Independence, MO to Sacramento, CA, and spans ten states - California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.
Passport sites and interpretive centers exist along the route in several states. A modern-day auto route is also available for those wanting to trace the trail by car.
Fort Larned National Historic Site - Larned, KS
Fort Larned National Historic Site is a remarkable glimpse into the history of the American West during the mid-19th century. the site reserves the remains of Fort Larned, which was established in 1859 to protect travelers on the Santa Fe Trail and facilitate peaceful relations between settlers, Native American tribes, and the U.S. government. The fort played a significant role during the era of westward expansion, serving as a vital supply depot, military post, and diplomatic center.
Visitors can explore a range of well-preserved buildings including officers' quarters, barracks, the commissary, and the blacksmith shop that provide a detailed perspective on life at the fort during its operation. The site features a visitor center with informative displays and artifacts related to the fort's history, the Santa Fe Trail, and the broader context of the American West during the mid-19th century. Guided tours and living history programs offer insights into the daily routines, challenges, and interactions of soldiers, officers, and civilians who called Fort Larned home.
Additionally, visitors can enjoy walking trails, picnicking areas, and opportunities for birdwatching. Fort Larned National Historic Site was authorized on August 31, 1964 and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Fort Scott National Historic Site - Fort Scott, KS
Fort Scott National Historic Site, designated on October 19, 1978 and signed into law by Jimmy Carter, stands as a remarkable testament to the history of the American frontier and the role of military forts in westward expansion. Located in Fort Scott, Kansas, the site preserves the remains of the historic military fort established in 1842.
Visitors can explore the Fort's numerous well-preserved historic buildings, including officers' quarters, barracks, the commissary, and the hospital, allowing visitors to step back in time and explore the daily lives of the soldiers and civilians who lived and worked at the Fort. The site's visitor center features exhibits and interpretive displays that provide insights into the Fort's history, its role in westward expansion, and the challenges of maintaining order on the frontier.
The park offers guided tours and living history programs, allowing visitors to interact with costumed interpreters who reenact the daily routines and activities of the 1840s. There are also several picnic areas and hiking trails to enjoy.
Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area
Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area, designated in 2006 by President George W. Bush, is a historical region highlights the struggles and achievements in the fight for freedom and civil rights throughout American history. The region's history is deeply rooted in the tumultuous events leading up to the American Civil War and its lasting impact on the nation. It also played a significant role in the civil rights movement of the 20th century.
The heritage area encompasses a network of historic sites, museums, and interpretive centers that offer insights into the pivotal moments and figures in the fight for freedom. Thematic trails, such as the John Brown Freedom Trail, lead visitors to significant sites associated with the abolitionist movement. The region hosts cultural events, festivals, and reenactments that bring history to life and highlight the area's role in the ongoing quest for civil rights.
Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail - PA, OH, WV, KY, IN, ID, IL, IA, KS, MO, MT, NE, ND, OR, SD, WA
The Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail marks the historic journey by Merriweather Lewis and William Clark along 4,900 miles of wilderness from Pennsylvania all the way to the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon. The Trail connects 16 states - Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon - and includes museums, landmarks, exhibits, and Visitor Centers along the route. For a complete list of markers and things to see and do, click here.
Nicodemus National Historic Site - Nicodemus, KS
Nicodemus National Historic Site is a poignant reminder of the African American experience in the American West during the late 19th century. Located in Nicodemus, Kansas, this site preserves the history of one of the few remaining black settlements established by African Americans during the Reconstruction Era. These settlements were created by formerly enslaved individuals and free-born African Americans who sought to build new lives and communities in the post-Civil War era, away from the discrimination and racial violence they faced in the South.
The park features well-preserved historic buildings, including the First Baptist Church, the Nicodemus School District Number One schoolhouse, and the St. Francis Hotel. The visitor center houses exhibits, artifacts, and multimedia displays that provide context and stories related to the African American pioneers who founded this unique community. Throughout the year, the site hosts events and programs that celebrate the heritage of the Nicodemus settlers, including Juneteenth celebrations, living history reenactments, and educational activities.
Nicodemus National Historic Site was designated on November 12, 1996 and singed into law by President Bill Clinton.
Oregon National Historic Trail - ID, KS, MO, NE, OR, WA, WY
Beginning in Independence, Missouri and ending some 2,130 miles later in Oregon City, Oregon, and passing through seven states along the way, the Oregon Trail was the passage west for many settlers looking for a new life. The Oregon National Historic Trail marks the stories, landmarks, and landscapes of this incredible 4-month long journey made during the mid-1800's.
Today, there are several ways to experience the trail, with the most popular being by car. Maps citing various markers in each state are available to help you plan your journey . Of course, you don't have to travel the entire 2,000 miles to enjoy the trail, but for the purists who like to collect NPS Passport Stamps, you will find them at various Visitor Centers along the route here:
- Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument Visitor Center - Idaho
- Craters of the Moon National Historic Site - Idaho
- Three Island Crossing State Park - Idaho
- Shawnee Methodist Indian Mission State Historic Site - Kansas
- Hollenberg Pony Express Station State Historical Site - Kansas
- Marysville Chamber of Commerce & Convention & Visitors Bureau - Kansas
- Harry S. Truman National Historic Site - Missouri
- Trailside Center - Missouri
- Alexander Majors House Museum - Missouri
- National Frontier Trails Museum - Missouri
- Scotts Bluff National Monument - Nebraska
- Homestead National Monument of America - Nebraska
- Flagstaff Hill/National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center - Oregon
- McLoughlin House - Oregon
- Fort Vancouver National Historic Site - Washington
- National Historic Trails Interpretive Center - Wyoming
- Martin's Cove - Wyoming
- Fort Bridger State Historic Park - Wyoming
-Fossil Butte National Monument - Wyoming
Pony Express National Historic Trail - CA, CO, KS, MO, NE, NV, UT, WY
Before there was the telegraph, the most efficient method for getting messages across the country was the Pony Express. Riders could get a piece of mail from Saint Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California - 2,005 miles - in just ten days. As thousands of settlers traveled west along the Oregon Trail during the mid-1800's, along with the height of the Gold Rush and the Mormon migration, the need arose to get mail quickly to the West. Although the Pony Express only existed for eighteen months in 1860-1861, it became synonymous with the Old West.
Today, you can trace the Pony Express National Historic Trail at various points throughout Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California. Check here for sites and points of interest in each state. The Pony Express National Historic Trail was designated by Congress in 1992.
Santa Fe National Historic Trail - CO, KS, MO, NM, OK
The Santa Fe National Historic Trail runs from Western Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and passes through the states of Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico. Since 1821 the trail was a major thoroughfare for goods, but by 1880, the trail had became obsolete due to the Santa Fe Railroad line built between Kansas City and Santa Fe. With thirty sites along the trail to get a passport stamp, there are plenty of stops to learn the stories and history of this famous old-west 'highway'.
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve - Strong City, KS
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is located in Chase County, Kansas, and protects and showcases one of the last remaining tallgrass prairies in North America. Prior to extensive settlement and farming, these prairies covered millions of acres, and they played a vital role in the history of the American Midwest.
Visitors to Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve have the opportunity to explore this rare and ecologically significant landscape. featuring over 40 miles of hiking trails informative exhibits, films, and educational programs. One of the highlights of the preserve is the historic Z-Bar Ranch barn, which dates back to the late 19th century. The barn showcases the region's ranching history and the cultural heritage of the Flint Hills. Additionally, visitors can enjoy birdwatching, wildflower viewing, and stargazing, as the preserve is designated as an International Dark Sky Park.
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve was signed into law Bill Clinton in 1996 and encompasses 11,000 acres.