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Pawnee Rock Walking Trail

 Rising up out of the plains, Pawnee Rock was a landmark for explorers and a popular campsite for travelers crossing the prairie. For centuries, Pawnee Rock was a site where the Comanche, Kiowa, Arapaho and Cheyenne Indians had held councils of war and peace.  The large rock formation later became a popular stop upon the Santa Fe Trail for the white settlers heading west in search of adventure and fortune.  Although the rock was one of the most famous landmarks along the 750-mile trail, it also became known as one of the most dangerous points, as the angry Pawnee Indians began ambushing the caravans.  Word of the attacks spread from one end of the trail to the other, but the wagon trains still stopped at the vital campsite needing fresh provisions for the rest of their journey. 

 

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When the railroads began making their way across the plains in 1872, the town of Pawnee Rock was founded, which lies at the foot of the sandstone cliff.  These early settlers quarried the bluff for building materials reducing its elevation by at least one-half its original height.

In 1908, the remaining portion was acquired by the Woman’s Kansas Day Club and the next year it was turned over to the State of Kansas as an historic site.  On May 24, 1912, a stone monument was dedicated with great celebration before a crowd of some eight thousand onlookers.

 

The state park today provides a road that leads to a shelter house and monument on the summit.  An overlook, monument and historical signs now grace its reduced summit, where visitors can stand, witnessing the view that so many throughout history have shared.  The site is open from sunrise to sunset.

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Barton County1400 Main Street, Room 107Great Bend, KS  67530

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