Kansas Route 66

If you do an internet search for the number of miles that Route 66 covered in Kansas, you’ll get answers ranging from 11 to 14 miles. Regardless of which source you choose, the number of miles is small compared to the other states that were traversed by Route 66.

Just because the number of miles is small doesn’t mean Kansas is forgetting it’s Route 66 heritage. Galena, Riverton, and Baxter Springs all embrace Route 66 and what the road meant to their development. The state has also embraced the Mother Road, designating one the best examples of a concrete arch bridge a state historic landmark and helping to get the bridge listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks.

Missouri Oklahoma State Line

The topography of the land at the junction of Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas that made road planners in the early 1900’s choose to route 66 through the very corner of Kansas led to a rather ironic development of roadside businesses along Route 66 right at the Missouri/Kansas state line.

Kansas is known to have some of the strictest liquor laws in the US. In fact, the whole state was dry from 1881 to 1948 (yes, the whole state of Kansas stayed “dry” a full fifteen years after prohibition ended). Missouri, on the other hand, was and still is rather liberal in their liquor laws and quickly embraced the end of prohibition in 1933.

After the end of prohibition, it didn’t take long for some entrepreneurial Missourians to realize the  potential for some very targeted businesses on the Missouri side of Route 66 as traffic picked up on the new cross country highway.

The State Line Saloon still operates today as the Hogs and Hot Rod Saloon. The ghost of the store side sign for the State Line Mercantile Co., prominently painted on the side of the building facing Kansas, harkens back to an earlier day when the store was actively seeking business from its dry neighbors.


A scant half mile into Kansas, we found ourselves cruising into Galena Kansas, the first of three towns we’d drive through. Galena boomed in the late 1800’s as a lead mining town, and stayed busy with mining into the 1970’s. The fact that the city was the eastern gateway to Kansas Route 66 also helped it’s growth.

Today, the small community provides Route 66 memories with buildings that have ghost signs visible on the sides and a small restored Kan-O-Tex gas station that is adorned with a number of older cars, including the International Harvester L-170 truck that became the inspiration for the character “Mater” in Disney’s Cars.


A few miles down the road from Galena, Route 66 crosses the Spring River and enters the town of Riverton. Just a bit past the bridge, the roadside Eisler Brothers Country Store is an inviting stop. The store opened in 1925 under the name of Williams. In 1973, the Eisler family purchased the store, and in 2011 it was sold to an Eisler nephew by the name of Nelson. His name adorns the store today.

Regardless of the name changes, the store is effectively the same as when it opened in 1925. Although the store served primarily local residents, it was a popular stop for travelers on Route 66. Especially interesting is the original 1925 pressed metal ceiling.

Just west of Riverton, on a short stretch of original Route 66, is the famous Marsh Rainbow Bridge over Brush Creek.

The bridge, built in 1923, is the lone survivor of three bridges of the same design that original graced Route 66 through Kansas. The bridge was saved by efforts to recognize its importance to Route 66 as well as Kansas, and it was listed on the National Register in 1983. The listing helped keep the bridge open as a one way bypass for limited traffic when a new bridge was constructed over the creek.

Baxter Springs

We finished our short drive on Kansas Route 66 by cruising through the small city of Baxter Springs. The city has a long history beyond route 66. The local mineral springs made the area a favored rest stop for the Osage Indians on their way to summer hunting grounds and drew early settlement. The city also grew quickly in the later 1800’s when it became a through point for cattle drives coming up from Texas on their way to northern markets in Kansas City, making Baxter Springs the first “Cow Town” of Kansas. Shortly after, the mining boom in the area took over.

By the time Route 66 was routed through Baxter Springs in 1926, the downtown was already well established. Still, the effect of the Mother Road is apparent with gas stations, cafes and old downtown hotels. The city maintains its ties to Route 66 with a museum in a restored 1930’s Phillips 66 station.

Another bonus in Baxter Springs is a short stretch of the original Route 66 pavement at the south end of town. When the highway was configured to accommodate a shopping center on the south end of town, a sharper curve in the original two lane highway was “isolated” but not “abandoned”; it’s still maintained for service access to the stores in the aging strip mall and offers an albeit brief experience of traveling on the original Route 66 in Kansas.

Leaving Baxter Springs, we headed down the road about a half mile, saying “Goodbye” to Kansas and “Hello” to Oklahoma.