About Great BendWhile oil is pumped from underground reserves, wheat is harvested from the overlying fields in Great Bend, situated at the apex of the Arkansas River's sweeping arc through central Kansas.
Named for the big bend in the Arkansas River, Great Bend was established in 1872 along the Santa Fe Trail and around the shell of Fort Zarah, which guarded the trail until 1869 when diminished trail traffic and lessened Native American threats made the fort unnecessary. In 1872 the railroad arrived, bringing with it the cattle trade and all the gambling, gunplay and other amusements typical of a cattle railhead. To establish order, state law decreed that the Texas herds could move no closer than a point 30 miles west of town.
Located in Lafayette Park on the historic Santa Fe Trail is the Kansas Quilt Walk. Seven patterns of quilts reflecting the early settlement of the area are etched in the surrounding sidewalks. Also noteworthy in town is the Great Bend Mural Project, a collection of outdoor murals painted on area buildings by local artists. Several are located in the Main Street business area.
Today, Great Bend is a destination for nature enthusiasts of all levels, with opportunities for hikers, bikers, paddlers, photographers and birders. In a vast natural sink, 6 miles northeast of town via US 281 or US 156, lies Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area. As one of the nation's largest inland marshes, it is designated as a wetland of international importance. The 19,857-acre wildlife area attracts great numbers of birds, including the threatened bald eagle and endangered whooping crane. Forty-five percent of North America's shorebirds stop here on their migratory flight in the spring; phone (620) 793-7730 or (877) 243-9268.
Fort Zarah Park, 3 miles east of town on US 56, occupies 9 acres. Thirteen miles southwest on US 56, Pawnee Rock looms above the prairie.
From late November through New Year’s Eve, three local parks are decorated with Christmas lights for the annual Trail of Lights celebration. A Santa exhibit and an iceless skating rink add to the fun.
Visitor Centers Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau 3007 10th St. Great Bend, KS 67530. Phone:(620)792-2750 or (877)427-9299
Things to Do Barton County Historical Society Museum and Village
Great Bend, KS
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