Hutchinson The state's ninth and newest designated scenic byway, zigzagging through more than 50 miles of central Kansas, is "probably the most scenic yet," said the state's byways coordinator.
"We're really excited about it," coordinator Scott Shields said of the Prairie Trail byway, which runs through sections of McPherson and Ellsworth counties. "Parts of it are really quite scenic. We were really impressed."
In fact, though Secretary of Transportation Deb Miller didn't officially approve its designation until recently, the route was included on state highway maps that have been distributed since summer.
"We knew they were working on it and made the assumption it would become one," Shields said.
The 56-mile route encompasses a wide range of environmental, cultural, historic and recreational vistas.
Attractions along the route, though not all directly on the designated roadways, include viewing the bison and elk at Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, the natural scenery at Kanopolis Reservoir and nearby Mushroom Rock State Park, as well as the Swedish culture in Lindsborg and Marquette.
"It is very unique," said Della Meier, a tour director for Friends of Maxwell Wildlife Refuge and a member of the committee that developed the byway plan. "The whole route is very scenic. ... The natural beauty of Kansas is all along the route. And ours is probably the only scenic byway with buffalo roaming beside it."
The byway follows County Road 103, or 27th Avenue, from Canton some 13 miles north to Roxbury. There it turns west and follows Smokey Valley Road - which eventually becomes U.S. 81 - for 14 miles, turning north into Lindsborg. It then continues west again for 16 miles on Kansas 4, known locally as Svensk Road, to Kansas 141. There it turns back north for an additional 13 miles, ending at the intersection with Kansas 140 about halfway between Ellsworth and Salina.
"The state designation will create greater awareness of this area for visitors and spur an interest in the communities along the route," Shields said.
That's accomplished, in part, by the state posting markers along the route. The marker logo for the Prairie Trail will include a Meadowlark and sunflower, Meier said, though an artist contracted by the state will design it. Shields said the signs would probably go up next spring.
The state will also fund promotional brochures and add information and photos from the route to its Web site, www.ksbyways.org.