Missouri and Kansas have always been great places to begin grand adventures! Independence, Kansas City and St. Joseph were famous starting points for the Oregon and California Trail pioneers. Today you can see history and enjoy your great vacation adventure!
The first pioneer groups left from Independence in 1834. By 1842, tens of thousands of pioneer emigrants trekked into the uncharted frontier to find a new home in Oregon. The first pioneer groups unloaded their wagons and belongings off steamboats at Independence, Missouri. Soon Kansas City’s Westport District became another launching point. Eventually with so many pioneers and goods going West, suppliers and outfitters made St. Joseph a new launching point further north up the Missouri River.
Today’s pioneers can….
Plan your adventure at the National Frontier Trails Museum in Independence
Discover why St. Joseph is The King of the Trails
Enjoy great shopping at Village West in Kansas City, Kansas
See buffalo roam on native prairieland near Manhattan
Marvel at the Frontier Army Museum at Fort Leavenworth
Be inspired in the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area
Experience the fun of the Kansas City Metro Area
Discover Your Pioneer Spirit…
1) Independence – Today’s pioneers can start their trail adventure at the National Frontier Trails Museum, the only museum in the nation devoted to the history of the Oregon, California, Santa Fe, Lewis and Clark and Mormon Pioneer Trails. The museum features colorful exhibits, an award-winning film, artifacts, diaries, interactive exhibits and even a covered wagon ride. The Independence Courthouse is the official starting point of the Oregon Trail, and Santa Fe Park was a launching point for the Santa Fe Trail.
The Harry S. Truman sites include the Truman Presidential Library and Museum, the Truman Home, and a walking trail with inspiring plaques along the way. Visitors can also enjoy a covered wagon tour of Independence historic sites, and tours of the 1827 Log Courthouse, the 1859 Jail, Marshal’s Home and Museum, and the Bingham- Waggoner Estate, home of famed Civil War artist George Caleb Bingham. Fun-seekers and bargain hunters will enjoy the Independence Center with over 150 shops and restaurants and a play area with a full-sized carousel.
2) Kansas City, MO – Visitors can see the wagon ruts and swales made by the big wagons at the 85th and Manchester swales and the Three Trails Corridor of the Santa Fe, Oregon and California Trails at Schumacher Park, Santa Fe Trail Park, and the Hart Grove Campground. Kansas City’s Westport District was a primary trailhead for the Santa Fe, Oregon and California Trails.
3) St. Joseph – The legendary Pony Express started in St. Joseph. The Pony Express National Museum chronicles this exciting history with exhibits, film and artifacts. A dynamic, 60-foot diorama portrays the entire route from St. Joseph to Sacramento, California. St. Joseph’s role in the opening and settlement of the West comes alive in the unique Patee House Museum. Once the headquarters for the Pony Express, the historic hotel building today features an authentic 1860’s train, depot, a vintage carousel, and a re-created 1860’s street scene with a sheriff’s office, jail, general store, blacksmith shop, clothing store and more. The last home of legendary outlaw Jesse James is next door, and you can see the hole in the wall from the bullet that killed Jesse.
There are even more attractions and museums to fascinate visitors, including the Albrecht Kemper Museum of Art, Robidoux Row Museum, the St. Joseph Museum which also includes the Glore Psychiatric Museum and Black Archives, Fort Smith Park, Wyeth Tootle Mansion, Remington Nature Center, Mt. Mora Cemetery and the St. Joseph Parkway.
The Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area encompasses 41 counties in Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas. Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area includes over 200 historic sites, museums and visitor centers focusing on Western Exploration and settlement, the Border Wars leading to the Civil War, and the enduring struggle for freedom. You can truly feel the Pioneer Spirit that helped build America at many of Freedom’s Frontier’s outstanding museums and historic sites.
Come discover the compelling legacy of the pioneers in the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area.
4) Kansas City, KS – The Grinter Place State Historic Site, built in 1857 on a scenic location overlooking the Kansas River, includes seven restored rooms for a firsthand look at frontier living. Lewis and Clark Park at Kaw Point, once the campsite for the Lewis and Clark Expedition, today offers visitors a beautiful view of downtown Kansas City at the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers. Village West is a shopper’s paradise that includes Legends Outlets of Kansas City with more than 100 stores and restaurants. The Great Wolf Lodge, the Nebraska Furniture Mart, Cabela’s outfitters and the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway are nearby.
Kansas City is also the home of the 2017 U.S. Open Cup Champs Sporting Kansas City at Children’s Mercy Park. For racing fans, there is the Kansas Speedway, Lakeside Speedway and the NASCAR Driving Experience.
5) Olathe – Western history comes alive at the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm Historic Site. Ride in a stagecoach and see the working 19th-century farm. Visitors can see the pioneers’ wagon ruts and swales at Lone Elm Park. To the south at Gardner visitors can see where the pioneer trails parted at Gardner Junction Park.
6) Lawrence – At the Lawrence Visitor Information Center visitors can learn of the Civil War on the Western Frontier. The Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area headquarters features dioramas, displays and maps of area museums and historic sites focusing on the shaping of the frontier, border wars leading to the Civil War, and the enduring struggle for freedom.
7) Topeka – At the Kansas State Capitol and the Kansas History Museum visitors can see exhibits that portray the state’s colorful, frontier history. The Great Overland Station Museum and Education Center features exhibits on the early Kansas history. Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site has exhibits on the struggle for equality.
8) Wamego – Junction of US 24 and KS 99. East of town visitors can follow the trail at Oregon Trail Nature Park and the Louis Vieux Cemetery. North of Wemego on KS 99 visitors can see Oregon Trail Park at Scott Springs just south of Westmoreland.
9) Alcove Spring Park – West of Frankfort on KS 9, then north on US 77. Thousands of wagons forded Independence Creek at Alcove Spring, six-miles south of Marysville. Oregon and California Trail pioneers carved the name “Alcove Spring” on the surrounding rocks and trees. Today’s park features the natural spring, easy-to-follow trails, pioneer names carved into the rocks, trail markers and interpretive panels.
10) Marysville – A large statue of a pony express rider and horse is downtown. Historic Trails Park includes Pony Express Home Station 1 Barn and Museum and a reproduction of the original ferry.
11) Hanover – Hollenberg Station, a seven-acre state park and National Historic Landmark, the only Pony Express Station in Kansas remaining at its original location. Today the site includes a visitor’s center and a historic frontier home.
12) Manhattan – The Goodnow House State Historic Site features two floors with historic artifacts telling the story of a “free-stater” who founded Manhattan and Kansas State University. The First Territorial Capitol State Historic Site near present-day Fort Riley features the restored first capitol building originally built in 1855. Manhattan is the home of Kansas State University, the nation’s first land-grant university. Adjacent to the university, you’ll find Aggieville, a unique shopping district over 125-years old, offering memorable restaurants, shops and bars.
The Flint Hills Discovery Center features fun and fascinating interactive exhibits for visitors of all ages. The Riley County Historical Museum showcases the area’s pioneer heritage.
The nearby Konza Prairie Biological Station features buffalo in their native prairieland. Wildwood Outdoor Adventure Park features 7 thrilling zip-lines.
13) Leavenworth is the “First City of Kansas” incorporated in 1854. Leavenworth became nationally known as the “jumping off point” for the opening of the West. Fort Leavenworth, built in 1827, was the forward outpost during the Great Western Migration. The Fort served as the vital supply center for outposts located throughout the West. Its unique role in western history is displayed at the Frontier Army Museum. The fort houses one of the best collections of 18th century military weapons and equipment.
The Fort’s Buffalo Soldier Monument, memorializing the African American troops, is also a must see stop on your tour. View vintage homes dating from the mid-1800’s and tour the 1882 Carroll Mansion. Experience the self-guided historic Leavenworth and Fort Leavenworth interactive waysides tours, stroll along the Missouri River at the Leavenworth Landing featuring sculptural displays and wayside displays along the waterfront. Kids of all ages can ride on the restored 1913 carousel at the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum. Leavenworth’s 28-block historic downtown shopping district features a wide variety of unique stores, boutiques and restaurants.