A Journey Through History: Kansas on Route 66

A historic gas station featuring a fire truck at Kansas' Route 66.

Route 66 is one of the most iconic and historic highways in the United States. This famous road covers eight states: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Although Kansas only has a small 13.2-mile stretch of Route 66’s 2,400-plus miles, it holds a significant place in the history of this legendary road. Take a journey through Kansas’ part of Route 66, and then explore the rest of The Sunflower State. 

The Kansas Stretch 

While it may be the shortest stretch of Route 66 in any state, the Kansas portion is full of history and charm. This section of the road runs from the Missouri state line in the east to the Oklahoma state line in the west, passing through three towns: Galena, Riverton and Baxter Springs. 


Galena is the first town you’ll encounter as you enter Kansas from Missouri. This quaint town was once a bustling mining community with a population reaching up to 30,000 at its peak. Today, Galena is a quiet town with a population of just under 3,000, but it has preserved much of its history and charm. The town features several historic buildings, including the old Galena Mining and Historical Museum, and the famous Kan-O-Tex Service Station, which has been restored and converted into a souvenir shop and attraction. 


Continuing westward, the next stop on Route 66 is Riverton. Riverton is home to the iconic Old Riverton Store, formerly the Williams’ Store, which has been in operation since 1925, and the old Rainbow Bridge, one of the few remaining Marsh arch bridges in Kansas. Crossing the Rainbow Bridge is a must-do for any Route 66 enthusiast. 

Baxter Springs 

Before leaving Kansas and entering Oklahoma, you’ll pass through Baxter Springs. This town is home to the Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum, which offers a comprehensive history of the area, including its Native American heritage, Civil War history and Route 66 memorabilia. Baxter Springs is also home to the only Route 66 Visitors Center in Kansas. 

State of Kansas 

Beyond Route 66, Kansas has much to offer including many well-preserved historic sites and museums. The Kansas State Capitol in Topeka is a must-visit for anyone interested in architecture or U.S. history. Other notable attractions include the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in the Flint Hills and the Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita. 

While Kansas may only have a small stretch of Route 66, it is full of history and charm. The towns of Galena, Riverton, and Baxter Springs each offer a unique glimpse into the past and are must-visit destinations for any Route 66 enthusiast. Beyond Route 66, Kansas is a state rich in history and natural beauty, making it a great destination for all kinds of travelers. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover or just someone looking to take a scenic drive, Kansas has something for everyone.