For more than 70 years, filmmakers have given us a picture of the Wild West in parts of Kansas that appeared to be desolate, dry, dusty, and deadly. Certainly, people traveling in Conestoga-type wagons had their problems with lack of food for their animals and themselves, and there was a time when a muddy water hole was the most valuable piece of real estate for many miles in any direction.
The Kansas of today, though, excels in modern camping, marvelous golf courses, tennis, softball and baseball, and almost every other popular sport, including superb hunting and top-notch horse and greyhound tracks. But there's an even bigger surprise for the visitor who is unfamiliar with Kansas: Now there's water?363,940 acres of surface, which include over 20 federal reservoirs provided by the US Army Corps of Engineers and the US Bureau of Reclamation. There are also private, municipal, and state lakes in what used to be one of the really dry states of the nation. Now Kansas is not only a major part of the breadbasket of the world, but also a wonderland for water-sports.
Trails played a big part in the history and settlement of Kansas. The Chisholm Trail, the Oregon Trail, the Pony Express Route, and the Santa Fe Trail all passed through different parts of the state, and sections of these trails can still be followed, either by car or on unique covered-wagon excursions. Along the way are historic forts, restored cattle towns, and lots of expansive Great Plains scenery.
Of course, there is no shortage of modern roadways within the state. The great Kansas Turnpike swings southwesterly from the Kansas City area to Topeka and on down by Wichita on its way to Oklahoma City. Interstate 70 carries visitors almost straight west to Colorado, I-135 and I-35 bisect the state north-south, and numerous U.S. and state roads form an almost checkerboard pattern.
There are forests and lakes in many state parks in the east, the beautiful rolling green Flint Hills in the northeast, and many lakes that offer scenic shorelines in the central and north. And then, of course, there's the real Wild West, preserved in the northwest and southwest corners, where visitors can actually relive the exciting days of Dodge City, the Cimarron Crossing, Goodland, and dozens of other replicas and restorations that tell the true history of the Old West.