The Prairie Spirit Trail in Kansas is hard-packed limestone and suitable for bicycles as well as wheelchairs. Some of the trail is asphalt (within city limits), which allows for inline skaters. The trail is open during daylight hours; special permits may be obtained for group night rides or other events.
Now 50 miles long, the trail runs from Ottawa to Iola, offering plenty of recreation and enjoyment for birdwatchers, cyclists, walkers, joggers and anyone with a desire to explore the heartlandthe spiritof Kansas.
Prairie Spirit Rail Trail State Park offers visitors a taste of rural, middle America at its finestrolling pastures, lazy streams, wooded ravines, friendly townspeople, colorful wildflowers, big farms and an endless sky. To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Prairie Spirit, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is adding the trail to its Rail-Trail Hall of Fame (August 2011) for embodying the unique natural and cultural history of the region and acting as a vanguard for other rail-trail projects.
Two centuries ago, this area was part of a vast and largely untouched prairie ecosystem that sustained not only millions of bison and other wild creatures, but also native Kanza and Osage people who hunted game and grew crops here. As European settlers began to move in, so too did the railroads. In 1858 a group of businessmen from Lawrence broached the idea of the first north-south rail line through the state. In the 1860s the idea became a reality with the opening of the Leavenworth, Lawrence and Fort Gibson Railroad (which later became the Leavenworth, Lawrence and Galveston Railroad).
By the mid-1970s the line fell into disuse; in 1990 it was sold to the Kansas City Terminal Railway Company (KCT), which filed for abandonment not long after. Fortunately, government officials saw an opening to create the state's first rail-trail along this corridor.
The wildlife and parks department took title to the land and began construction in 1992. The first section, 17 miles from Richmond to Welda, opened in 1996. The northern 16-mile section, from Ottawa to Richmond, opened in 1998. And the final 18-mile section in the south, from Welda to Iola, opened in 2008. The trail has proved popular residents and visitors alike. The variety of ecosystems and geography, including wooded areas, farmland and prairies, makes the trail inviting. It also incorporates urban areas and small towns. Among some of the Prairie Spirit Trail's more notable natural features are the nearby native prairie preserves, including The Nature Conservancy's Anderson County Prairie Preserve, which protects the rare Mead's milkweed and other vanishing species of the tallgrass prairie.
At its northern terminus in Ottawa, the Prairie Spirit Trail intersects with the Flint Hills Nature Trail
(at Walnut and 1st streets).
Trail Permits: A per-person trail permit is required for persons 16 years and older to use the trail outside the city limits of Garnett and Ottawa. Persons using the trail within the city limits of Garnett and Ottawa may do so free of charge. The cities of Garnett and Ottawa maintain the trail with their respective city boundaries. This maintenance is provided in exchange for usage of the trail within those boundaries at no charge.
Self-pay daily permits are $2.50 per day and may be purchased at self-pay stations located at the Ottawa, Princeton, Richmond, Garnett and Welda trailheads.
Annual permits are available for $10.50 at the following locations:
Garnett Area Chamber of Commerce
419 S. Oak
Garnett, KS 66032
City of Garnett
131 W. 5th, Box H
Garnett, KS 66032
2138 S. Princeton
Ottawa, KS 66067
Franklin Co. Clerk's Office
Franklin Co. Courthouse
Ottawa, KS 66067
Village Inn Motel
2520 S. Main
Ottawa. KS 66067
No permit is required for persons 15 years of age or under.
Facilities: Trail restrooms are available at trailheads Princeton, Richmond, and Welda from approximately April 15 to October 15. The Santa Fe Depot in Garnett provides restroom facilities throughout the year and is located near the town square in Garnett. The depot serves as a tourism information center as well. Picnic areas are located at each trailhead.
What a joy to be cycling without traffic. Rest areas were clean and well maintained. We went from Ottawa to Welda and overnighted at Garnett. The grade varied from high to low about 200 ft. but I would not have known for sure without a GPS. Many cracks ...
We accessed this trail at Scipio looking for something shady and flat. The three of us are training for a marathon and drove down from KC. The trail gave us everything we hoped for. We got there about 6:15am and headed toward Garnett. It was a shaded ...
My son and I have done the run from Garnet to Ottawa, beautiful ride lots of wildlife and scenery, beautiful bridges over rivers and streams, great bathrooms and rest areas with camping spots and running water, nice clean bathrooms, although and I don't ...