Kansas is a state in the Great Plains region of the United States of America. It is generally considered the center of the country, at least in geographical terms. Kansas is named after the Kansas River which flows through it, from the French "Cansez", by explorer Ιtienne de Veniard, Sieur de Bourgmont, and after the Kansa tribe, who inhabited the area. Thanks to the Wizard of Oz, many non-Kansans (and some Kansans as well) think of it as a place to escape from. However, there are a lot of great places to visit, particularly if you are interested in the history of the American West. With a little exploration, almost every little town has something of interest.
The area was historically home to large numbers of nomadic Native Americans that hunted bison. It was first settled by white Americans in the 1850s, in the midst of political wars over the slavery issue. When officially opened to settlement by the U.S. government in 1854, abolitionists from New England and pro-slavery settlers from neighboring Missouri rushed to the territory to determine if Kansas would become a free state or a slave state. This period of "Bleeding Kansas" included a great deal of violence and some people consider this area to have been the cradle of the Civil War. The abolitionists eventually prevailed and on January 29, 1861, Kansas entered the Union as a free state. After the Civil War, the population of Kansas exploded when waves of immigrants turned the prairie into productive farmland. In communities like Lawrence, Kansas many organizations and businesses still proudly display the "free state" name. Today, Kansas is one of the most productive agricultural states, producing many crops, and leading the nation in wheat and sunflower production.
If you are driving to Kansas from the east or west, it would be best to take Interstate 70. I-35 travels from the south center of the state and passes northeast meeting I-70 in Kansas City.
Wichita and Topeka have municipal airports, but most people flying into the state would come through Kansas City (Missouri). The only regular train service is Amtrak's Southwest Chief.
Attractions S.P. Dinsmoor created the Garden of Eden in Lucas in 1905, and opened it up to tourists in 1908. The garden features sculptures of biblical scenes and political messages. One scene has labor being crucified by a doctor, lawyer, banker, and preacher. Dinsmoor even built his own mausoleum in which you can still see him today in his concrete coffin by paying for the tour.
Lucas is also home to the Grassroots Art Center. The museum features many works of art created by people with no formal training, and it sits only a block or two from the Garden of Eden.
The John Brown museum is located in Osawatomie.
The boyhood home of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Eisenhower Library, and his grave are located in Abilene.
The Greyhound Hall of Fame is also located in Abilene.
The house of Carrie Nation, now a museum, is located in Medicine Lodge.
The Boot-Lip Hill Museum in Dodge City features Old West memorabilia and history.
The Wizard of Oz Museum in Wamego features Dorothy's House, a recreation of the farm house featured in the film The Wizard of Oz.
The National Teachers Hall of Fame is located in Emporia.
The National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame is located in Bonner Springs.
The Horace Greeley museum is located in Tribune.
The Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, located in Hutchinson, is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institute. The museum features the largest collection of artifacts from the Russian Space Program outside of Moscow. It is also home to Apollo 13, an SR-71 Blackbird, and many space artifacts.
The Boyer Gallery, a collection of animated sculptures made by Paul Boyer is located in Belleville.
The fifth largest collection of civilian and military aircraft in the United States is located at the Mid-America Air Museum in Liberal.
The Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays, features exhibits of several fossils discovered by Charles Hazelius Sternberg as well as various temporary exhibits.
Big Basin and Little Basin are two large sinkholes located in Clark County.
The Cimarron National Grassland, Kansas's largest tract of public land, is located in Morton County.
Monument Rocks is a series of chalk arcs and other formations. Kansas also has many other formations of this nature.
The chalk formation Castle Rock (Kansas) and nearby badlands, near Quinter, Kansas.
The award-winning Kansas Museum of History is the state museum, and is located in the capital city of Topeka.
Concordia is home of the historic Brown Grand Theatre and Camp Concordia, a World War II Prisoner of war camp.
The world's largest ball of twine created August 15, 1953, in Cawker City weighing more than 16,750 pounds and still growing.
The geographical center of the 48 contiguous states is Smith County.
Big Brutus, the world's second largest electric shovel resides in West Mineral. It is 160 feet (49 m) tall and weighs 11 million pounds (5,000t).
The Big Well, the world's largest hand dug well, is in Greensburg.
The windiest city in the U.S. is Dodge City, Kansas.
Sumner County is known as the wheat capital of the world.
Kansas is in "Tornado Alley." Tornadoes and Severe thunderstorms with high winds and hail are not uncommon during the spring and summer months. Make sure you keep a radio on in the car. Should you hear the tornado sirens sounding, locate a suitable tornado shelter at once - DO NOT stay outdoors to get a picture! Also, DO NOT try to outrun the tornado in your car! You may wind up driving directly into the tornado's path.
Should the skies be cloudy, and the light take on a greenish-yellow cast, this is an indication of an imminent hail storm - again, seek shelter at once.
But keep in mind, these storms are spread over a wide area and most residents have never seen a tornado. Refer to the Tornado safety article for analysis of the issues here.
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Black swallowtail butterfly, Wichita, Kansas, U.S.A.
Regions Eastern Kansas
The only way to travel in Kansas is to drive. It's part of the experience of being in the state to spend time on the road. Take the time to plan a route off of the main highways and see the country.
Most of the precipitation falls in the summer and spring. Summers are hot, often very hot. Winters are cold in the northwest and cool to mild in the southwest. Also, the western region is semiarid, receiving an average of only about 16 inches (40 cm) of precipitation per year. Chinook winds in the winter can warm western Kansas all the way into the 80 degree Fahrenheit (25 °C) range. The far south-central and southeastern reaches of the state have a humid subtropical climate, with long, hot summers, short, mild winters, and much more precipitation than the rest of the state.
Kansas is the 9th or 10th sunniest state in the country, depending on the source. Western Kansas is as sunny as parts of California and Texas. In spite of the frequent sunshine throughout much of the state, the state is also vulnerable to strong thunderstorms, especially in the spring. Many of these storms become Supercell thunderstorms. These can spawn tornadoes, often of F3 strength or higher. According to statistics from the National Climatic Data Center , Kansas has reported more tornadoes ( for the period 1st January 1950 through to 31st October 2006) than any state except for Texas - marginally even more than Oklahoma . It has also - along with Alabama - reported more F5 tornadoes than any other state. These are the most powerful of all tornadoes. Kansas averages over 50 tornadoes annually.