May 31st 2017: This was a day ‘off’ Route 66 to take in a couple of more unusual sites and we headed North back into Kansas. We had been 630 feet above ground on the St Louis Arch (see earlier post here) so why not reverse that and make a visit 650 feet underground? The Strataca Underground Salt Museum in Hutchinson Kansas offered just that possibility.
This was a really interesting visit and well worth the detour. It is worthy of its strap line as ‘one of the 8 wonders of Kansas’. The salt mine is still active. Strataca has been created in what is now an unused part of the mine. It was 30 degrees plus topside but in the mine it was (and always is, Winter or Summer) a steady and very pleasant 20 degrees. Because of this steady temperature the mine has also been used as a long terms storage facility for documents, films etc and there is a display of various items related to this.
Everything is ‘down below’ including the merchandising, a train ride through the mine and ‘the dark ride’ which s a longer tour on a sort of extended golf cart. Photos below:
Mining began at the end of the 19th century and continues to this day. Pretty much everything they ever brought into the mine stays in the mine. Usually because it had to be disassembled top side then reassembled when it got down below so too much hassle to take it back out again. That leads to some interesting items still existing in the mine.
Onward and upward – literally – to our next stopping point. We had previously visited the telephone museum and the vacuum museum but still felt that perhaps we had not visited a museum to match the challenge set by my daughter who threw down the gauntlet with a museum of firemen’s helmets through the years which she had visited. I was pretty sure our next stop would beat that – the Kansas Barbed Wire Museum. It did not disappoint.
A collection of over 2,000 different types of barbed wire! The museum is one of several buildings brought together and beautifully maintained by the local historical society. Barbed wire – it actually has an amazing history and revolutionised fencing on the plains. Literally hundreds of patents were filed and granted for different styles and types along with the various tools they used to cut, stretch and fasten the wire. And, of course, there is the darker side of its use in warfare and the images we see perhaps particularly from World War One.
We were made to feel extremely welcome and shown some of the more unusual exhibits including a coffee grinder which used barbed wire to grind the beans and a crows nest that the crows had put together with barbed wire – I kid you not.
One of the other buildings was an old bank – again lovingly maintained.
All in all a great day – back to the mother road tomorrow!