The story of the Santa Fe and Oregon-California trails is closely tied to the history of Kansas. Trade with the Spanish Southwest began in 1821 as William Becknell established the route leading to Santa Fe. For more than fifty years the Santa Fe Trail was traveled by traders, military units and fortune seekers. Between 1840 and 1870, a quarter of a million Americans crossed the continent on the Oregon-California Trail. These pioneers followed the Santa Fe Trail out of Independence or Westport, Missouri, and then turned north just outside of Gardner, Kansas. With the arrival of the railroad in 1872, came a rush of European immigrants and the county (especially Olathe, described then as the "Eden of Kansas") boomed.
We invite you to share our area's rich history. Visit two authentically restored museums. Experience the beauty of the tallgrass prairie. Walk in the ruts created by thousands of wagon wheels. Friendly folks in each community will accommodate you on your modern-day overland trail adventure.
Explore Johnson County
J.B. Mahaffie purchased a 160-acre tract of ground 1-mile north of the town of Olathe, Kansas along the Santa Fe Trail in 1857. In 1863, J.B. and his wife, Lucinda Mahaffie, contracted to run a stagecoach stop. Serving meals in their cellar, the Mahaffies operated their business until around 1870Olathe, KS Museums
The rich natural history of Kansas has been preserved with 300 acres of native tall grass prairie, woodlands and creeks. The diverse biomes comprise virgin tallgrass prairie, reseeded tallgrass prairie, riparian woodlands, and wetland areas. The center is a suburban island that was farmed until 1968Olathe, KS Nature Centers
Enjoy some of the country's finest concerts, theatrical performances, and other fine arts performed at one of the most innovative theaters in the area. The celebrated performing arts center The Kansas City Star calls “the crown jewel of the Johnson County cultural scene,” hosts or presents over 250Overland Park, KS Theatres
At the Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead visitors enjoy feeding farm animals, taking a hayride on a horse-drawn wagon, fishing in the pond and walking through a replica of an early 1900s farmhouse. If you are a gardening enthusiast, don't miss the Johnson County Master Gardener exhibit.Overland Park, KS Zoos
The promise of opportunity and freedom brought many brave individuals to American shores in the late 1800s, including German immigrants, Margaretha and William Lackman. Their hope: to build the home ... the fortune ... the future of their dreams in a new and exciting land.Lenexa, KS Historic Homes