When you travel in different areas of the country you’ll find different types of experiences. Many travelers have noticed that as they travel westward they tend to find a more laid-back, slow-paced atmosphere. Fort Scott Kansas isn’t a well-known tourist site but, in many ways, that makes it an even more engaging travel destination. You can find a number of interesting and unique places to explore in the Fort Scott area.
Life for Afro-Americans was difficult in the south when Gordon Parks was growing up. Parks, a black man, turned to photography to document the poverty and discrimination that his family and community endured while he was growing up in the ’30s and ’40s. Parks eventually branched out to fashion and celebrity photography — he even directed the well-known African-American movie Shaft — but he is best known for his photo essays in which he chronicled the black experience of America’s South. Fort Scott’s Gordon Parks Museum displays many of the pictures that memorialize Park’s legend as a humanitarian photojournalist. The museum also features many of Park’s Hollywood photographs which showcase his other artistic talents. The museum is open daily from 7:00a.m. – 8:00p.m. It’s located in the Mercy Health Center, just off US Highway 69 at the southern edge of Fort Scott. Entrance is free. 620-223-7036
There are hundreds of rivers and streams in Kansas but the Rock Creek Lake waterfalls draw visitors from throughout the country. The falls are located just three miles west of Fort Scott. The Rock Creek lake waterfalls are actually a series of three waterfalls which were created by the outflow from Rock Creek Lake and empty into the Marmaton River. Drive west out of Fort Scott on 19th Street until you see the parking lot at the north end of Rock Creek Lake. From the parking lot, walk along the narrow gravel trail and cross the dam to the falls. Stop at the first waterfall or walk past those first falls to see other two falls. The second and third waterfalls have a five foot vertical drop but if the water’s low you can wade across the stream.
A visit to the Fort Scott National Historic Site shows you one of the west’s first U.S. army forts. The fort was established in 1842 as an outpost for troops who were charged with enforcing the peace between settlers and the Osage Indians. The fort also served as a training base for soldiers during the Civil War including the 1st Kansas Colored Unit, the first officially recruited and trained unit of black soldiers. The site is administered by the National Parks Service. A Living History presentation is shown at specific times during tourist seasons with actors who show what life was like at the fort 160 years ago. Check with the National Parks Service to find out when the presentations are presented and when the guided tours begin. (620) 223-0310
Near the fort you can visit the Fort Scott Military Cemetery. This cemetery has functioned as a military cemetery since 1842 and contains the remains of American soldiers who served during the Indian wars, the pre-Civil War battles between abolitionists and proponents of slavery in pre-state Kansas , the Civil War and other American wars which were fought on foreign soil. President Lincoln consecrated the cemetery formally in 1865.
The Lowell Milken Center was established in 2007 to honor unsung heroes — individuals whose actions went above and beyond normal expectations in their drive to make the world a better place. The center grew out of a project-based assignment in which a group of schoolgirls from nearby Uniontown Kansas identified and wrote about an unsung hero of the Holocaust. Their 1999 project centered around Irena Sendler, a non-Jewish Polish woman who saved over 2500 Jewish children from the Warsaw ghetto during World War II. The girls’ research resulted in a website, a book and performance which has been viewed by thousands of people throughout the world. Center-director Lowell Milken and educator Norman Conrad to developed the Center to promote other such projects. Today the Lowell Milken Center exhibits the projects of dozens of schoolchildren from throughout the United States who have undertaken serious works of scholarship to identify and document stories of unsung heroes. Center visitors can view all projects that have been submitted thus far including those which have received the Center’s annual Discovery Award. (620) 223-9991 or on the web on Facebook and Twitter.