Thursday, August 19, 2010

Scott State Park

From the archives -
I am reaching into my photo archives to bring you this Kansas Journey report. The recent heat and humidity stifled any desires I might have had to load up the Rodeo and hit the road. (And there is an upcoming "trip of a lifetime" to save money for, but that is another story, as they say.)


Nancy and I traveled to Scott State Park in October, 2007, long before I began doing a Kansas Journeys blog. Although I have made only the one visit, Scott is still a favorite place, one I like to tell people about.

Scott State Park was a major surprise to me - one of the most pleasant surprises in my Kansas travels. Certainly I have been to places equally scenic, and to other beautiful places with rugged landscapes that unknowing masses would not associate with a state that is "flat as a pancake." But none of those have exceeded my expectations as did Scott State Park.

Oasis is a word commonly used to describe the setting of this state park, one that is quite fitting in my opinion. Located on the short grass prairies of western Kansas, its 100-acre springfed lake, wooded canyons and craggy bluffs provide a stark contrast to the surrounding landscape. Wildlife is found in abundance at this oasis: deer (whitetails and mule-deer), bobcats, wild turkey, foxes, and numerous types of reptiles.

The golden color of the cottonwood trees in these photos provides evidence that we were there in the autumn - October to be exact. It was lovely! The few campers and fishermen there at the time were enjoying the beautiful surroundings and the pleasant weather.

I think it would be interesting to view the lake and its shoreline by canoe, available at park, as are paddle boats, but wonder if I would dare take one of my high-end cameras in a canoe? Probably not.

This is a "full-service" park, with numerous camp sites (primitive or with facilities) and shower buildings, a playground and beach, nature trails for hikers or horseback riders, a horse camp, and a concession stand. The web site of the state parks (link below) indicates that Scott is one of the sites at which cabins are being built. [I certainly welcome the addition of cabins to our state parks, and hope to check out some of these cabins in the future.]

El Quartelejo (El Cuartelejo) Pueblo Ruins

Within the park grounds is one of Kansas' most significant archeological finds - the excavated foundations of an Indian pueblo dating to 1664, the northeasternmost such pueblo established. According to historians, Taos Indians fled Spanish rule and settled amongst the plains Indians at this site. Sometime prior to 1680, a Spanish military expedition returned the Taos to their original home, but in 1696 a band of Picuris pueblo Indians joined their plains Apache trading partners at El Quartelejo. Ten years later, the Picuris met the same fate as their Taos Indian predecessors. The Quartelejo Apaches abandoned the pueblo in the 1730s after a series of raids by  Pawnee, Ute, and Comanche warriors.

The story of the ruins' discovery in 1888 is interesting in itself. Herbert L. Steele, one of Scott County's earliest settlers discovered and was re-using the irrigation ditches from the pueblo, then began finding artifacts from the earlier habitation. One newspaper account tells of him seeing ground squirrels carrying parched corn from holes in the ground. Steele notified the Kansas Historical Society of his findings. The first archeological dig began in 1897 under the guidance of two paleontology professors from the University of Kansas. El Quartelejo (or Cuartelejo) was added to the Register of National Historic places in 1965.

By necessity, I have kept my narrative regarding this Kansas historic treasure brief. There is a great deal more interesting reading at the two El Quartelejo links listed below, including some fascinating Indian legends related to the area.


Visiting the area: With the thought in mind that a large percentage of my readers are located in the northeast corner of Kansas, a long drive from Scott County, I would like to offer some suggestions.
  • For those families who like to camp, fish, enjoy the water, this is an excellent destination unto itself. Note - small lake may not support boating other than those with trolling motors. Check it out.
  • Scott State Park is very close to one of the state's most striking geological formations, one of the 8 Original Wonders of Kansas - Monument Rocks and Castle Rock. Both are located in Gove County
  • There are a number of other sites in central and western Kansas that can be combined into a unique road trip. If you would like to plan such an outing and need help figuring out what there is to see and do, send me a note. I'll be glad to offer suggestions and/or help you find resources.
  • Those who make frequent trips to the mountains might find it worthwhile to spend a day at these and other Kansas sites of interest. Many are not far from I-70.


Helpful Links:

    Barring unexpected developments, this will be my last Kansas Journeys blog posting until much later in the year. Nancy and I will be taking an extended trip to Italy this fall. I have set up a blogspot site in which I hope to keep our friends up-to-date on our whereabouts. It is our goal to post a photo or two, plus a very brief report daily, or as often as possible. Follow us at: