Blue River Rail Trail
Itinerary
Blue River Rail Trail
Details
Chief Standing Bear Trail
22.9 mi State: Nebraska
Crushed Stone
Homestead Trail
40 mi State: Nebraska
Crushed Stone
Manhattan Linear Park Trail
9.4 mi State: Kansas
Concrete, Crushed Stone
Hickman Linear Park Trail
0.8 mi State: Nebraska
Asphalt
Riverwalk Trail (KS)
4.7 mi State: Kansas
Crushed Stone
Jamaica North Trail
7.9 mi State: Nebraska
Concrete, Crushed Stone
Antelope Creek Trail
4.9 mi State: Nebraska
Concrete
Tierra Williamsburg Trail
3 mi State: Nebraska
Concrete
Southpointe Trail
2.36 mi State: Nebraska
Concrete
Rock Island Trail (NE)
6.7 mi State: Nebraska
Concrete

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Pony Express Original Home Station No. 1

106 S. 8th
Marysville, KS 66508
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This stone barn built in 1859, was used for 18 months between 1860-1861, to stable the horses of the Pony Express riders. It is now a museum, open daily April-October.

Koester House Museum

919 Broadway
Marysville, KS 66508
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This museum was once the elegant home of a prominent banking family in Marysville. It is still luxuriously furnished with late 1800 furniture, portraits and household items. On the grounds is a scultpture garden and additional building that serves as a restaurant. Open daily April-October.

Historic Courthouse Museum

1207 Broadway
Marysville, KS 66508
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This building, built in 1891, housed Marshall County's courthouse for nearly 90 years. It now serves as a museum and library.

Toledo's Coffee and Deli

723 Broadway
Marysville, KS 66508
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Coffee shop and deli serving breakfast items as well as soups and sandwiches. Open 7am-5pm.

Penny's Diner

1127 Pony Express Hwy
Marysville, KS 66508
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Classic 1950s style diner located adjacent to Oak Tree Inn in Marysville, KS. Serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Heritage Inn Express

1155 Pony Express Hwy
Marysville, KS 66508
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Forty-one room motel with free wireless, exercise facility and king suites with whirlpools.

Oak Tree Inn

1127 Pony Express Hwy
Marysville, KS 66508
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Modern chain hotel providing free breakfasts with the convenience of its own diner onsite, Penny's Diner, serving breakfast, lunch and dinners.

Marysville Surf Motel

2105 Center St.
Marysville, KS 66508
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Marysvilles Surf Motel (formerly a Best Western) is conveniently located within walking distance to Marysville's downtown.

Big Poppi Bicycle Co

1126 Moro St
Manhattan, KS 66502
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Bike shop in Manhattan, KS that provides bike rentals, sales and service.

The Blue River Rail Trail in northern Kansas follows the course of its namesake, the Big Blue River, as well as the former right-of-way of Union Pacific Railway’s Beatrice Branch line. Spanning 9.1 miles, the rail-trail connects Marysville, home to an original Pony Express Station, to Oketo, just south of the Kansas-Nebraska state line. You begin your trail adventure in Marysville where many an explorer has been before you, whether they were traveling on the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail, the route of the Pony Express, the St. Joe Road, the Overland Stage, the Military Road, or the Otoe-Missouria Trail.

Along with a hefty infusion of history related to the western expansion of the United States, recreationalists on the Blue River Rail Trail (BRRT) will encounter a varied landscape of grasslands, forests, farm fields, river bottoms and towering limestone cliffs. Highlights of the trail include a 20-foot canyon wall, a covered bridge with scenic views of the river, and a restored rail trestle with a steel-grid walkway. The BRRT will eventually extend 2.8 miles north to the state line and beyond as part of the Homestead Trail extension.

You can rent a bicycle from Big Poppi Bicycle Co. in Manhattan, 60 miles south of Marysville and 7.5 miles east of the Manhattan Regional Airport. The BRRT is a rural route – there are no service amenities so pack everything you will need for the ride and consider throwing in binoculars to better spot the abundance of wildlife that live along the trail.

There are several choices for lodging in Marysville—Heritage Inn Express, Marysville Surf Motel, and Oak Tree Inn (with its 1950s style Penny’s Diner)—which are all along the Pony Express Highway (U.S. 36) on the eastern edge of town.

Day 1

Before the ride, fill up at Toledo’s Coffee and Deli; they serve coffee and breakfast items, as well as soup, salads and sandwiches.

The southern trailhead of the Blue River Rail Trail is off Jayhawk Road, 1.5 miles north of downtown Marysville. The Big Blue River peacefully meanders along the western edge of the trail. You begin by cycling through serene woodlands to a picturesque covered bridge and river bend, Rocky Run. From here, the woods give way to open farm fields and the trail intersects with Harvest Road (mile 2) and Frontier Road (mile 4.9) where there is additional trail parking. Between Harvest and Frontier Roads, the route passes through a canyon with impressive 20-foot limestone cliff walls. A 150-foot bridge takes you over the shallow rapids of Blodgett Creek, a tributary of the Big Blue River.

The next 2.3 miles continue through the pastoral landscape of northern Kansas with corn, soybean and alfalfa fields spreading out as far as the eye can see. Shrubs and trees of the river bottom provide some shade on warm, sunny days as well as the perfect riparian habitat for songbirds and small mammals. This rail-trail lies on the former rail corridor of Union Pacific Railroad’s Omaha-Kansas City route and the Marysville Subdivision. An old railroad bridge with a steel grid walkway carries you over Bommer Creek just before entering the small farming town of Marietta (mile 7.2) From here,Oketo and the current northern trail terminus (at Mill Street) are less than 2 miles away.

Although Oketo is a small town, those interested in the area’s history will want to cycle a half mile off the trail to Oketo’s Center Street (go east on Mill Street and north on State Street). With advanced arrangements, you may be able to tour some historical buildings, including Oketo’s old bank, city hall, jail, general store and museum. There isn’t much else here in terms of amenities, so don’t count on stocking up on water and food at this end. Return to Marysville the way you came and explore its small-town shops and eateries on Broadway and Center Streets. There are antique shops, vintage and collectible stores, and restaurants.

Day 2

Since the rail-trail is short, you will have plenty of time to explore Marysville on your second day. The town was established in 1851 as a trading post and ferry terminal and became a major hub of migration and exploration. Even today, Marysville is on one of the busiest railroad lines in the country.

A short, disconnected segment of the BRRT actually runs through the heart of Marysville to pass by or near many of the town’s main historical attractions. The trail begins at Broadway and 7th Street, where a Pony Express horse and rider bronze sculpture proudly reminds viewers that Marysville was once a stop along the Pony Express mail service route, which operated from 1860 to 1861. A block east, on 8th Street, stands the Marysville Pony Express Barn, now a museum but once a livery stable leased to the Pony Express. Before you leave the Pony Express Plaza, however, check out the nearby Lifetiles Murals display; two large murals depict a train and a horseback rider, each consisting of 90 individual tiles with images embedded in each tile.

Koester House Museum

Though not on the trail, there are other museums on Broadway worth noting. The Koester House Museum and Sculpture Garden is an elegant late-1800s home that displays the prosperous side of life from those days; the cast iron lions and statue guard dogs outside the house were observed by Laura Ingalls Wilder and noted in her diary of 1894. Additionally, the Historic Courthouse Museum and Genealogical Library served as the county’s courthouse for 90 years and now has several rooms displaying a collection of historical artifacts.

The BRRT ends at Marysville’s City Park, where there are camping and recreational facilities, as well as historical sites, like the 1901 Union Pacific depot, a sod house, a rural schoolhouse and a steam locomotive.

Historic Courthouse Museum

Check with the Marysville Chamber of Commerce to see what activities are taking place during your visit. It might be fun to be around in June during the Pony Express Re-Ride, an annual 10-day ride, between Sacramento, California, and St. Joseph, Missouri, with a stop at the Marysville Pony Express Station.

Just south of town, Historic Trails Park commemorates the eight trails which crossed the Big Blue River and the ferry that operated here from 1852 to 1864.

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Smithsonian National Zoo

3001 Connecticut Ave.
Washington, DC 2008
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Free admission and host of brand new exhibits featuring both abundant and endangered species from around the world. Don’t forget to drop by the Zoo’s most famous residents: giant pandas!

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