As the United States expanded west in the mid-19th century, conflicts began to break out along the Santa Fe Trail, and the federal government established forts to provide protection to the settlers. Fort Larned was established in 1859 and remained in place until it was abandoned in 1878.
Today the National Historic Site is a monument to the history and cultures of those times. When you visit, you will first see a picnic area as you enter the site. There are picnic shelters and restrooms near the entrance; the shelters are set among trees that provide shade and are near the Pawnee River, which flows past the site. You may be able to spot the wildlife that now resides here, creatures such as white-tailed deer, blue jays, and armadillos; the bison, wolves, and other wildlife that once lived here now exist elsewhere, due to the pressures created by land development and expansion. When you go RV camping near Fort Larned National Historic Site, you will be within a short traveling distance of most of the area's attractions.
There's a lot to experience at Fort Larned NHS, and a good place to start is with the site's heritage garden. Officers and soldiers at the fort had difficulty obtaining and keeping food supplies. Their limited diet (salt beef and other sources) made scurvy a serious problem. The residents took to creating gardens and growing their own vegetables. This practice is continued today to demonstrate that aspect of their lives. During special events, visitors to the fort are encouraged to pick some of the current vegetables being grown here and to take them home for their own enjoyment. Camping near Fort Larned NHS will make it easier for you to bring back the site's produce and use it in your cooking.
Staff at the site often portray re-enactments of living history events during the summer, and you can participate in evening guided candlelight tours year-round. Another attraction is the Santa Fe Trail Ruts, which are located close to the historic site. You can travel here on your own to view them, and there is a viewing platform you can use, or you can get up close to them. The ruts are among the very few remains of the Santa Fe Trail.
You can take a guided tour of the fort, exploring the buildings and talking to the re-enactment actors as they role-play. Tours are available during the summer and may be available in the off-season, depending on the number of available staff. When you rent a camper near Fort Larned NHS, you can come and go as you please, enjoying the tours and other attractions whenever you want to.
Camping at Fort Larned National Historic Site
Camping at the historic site isn't allowed, but there are numerous RV campgrounds near Great Bend and Larned. One of the campgrounds is All Seasons Mobile Home and RV Park, where you can rent a site by the day, week, or month. It has paved streets and sidewalks, a community room, and restrooms and showers. The sites are relatively large and capable of hosting larger rigs comfortably, and all include full hookups.
Hoisington RV Park is a family and pet-friendly RV park with full hookups and sites that are big rig friendly and have pull-through access. It has a grocery store where you can buy groceries, and a fast-food restaurant is within walking distance.
In Kinsley, 4 Aces RV Park is a small RV campground with a restroom and showers, laundry facilities, and free movie rentals. The individual campsites have concrete pads and full hookups with city water. While you're RV camping here, you can go for hikes on the Coon Creek Nature Trail or relax and enjoy the park's open grass area and surrounding tree stands. You can picnic or get some fishing in if the mood strikes you.
Exploring the Area
The city of La Crosse is a smaller community with some very unique museums; one of the museums is a collection of barbed wire. While this may seem strange, the wire was an instrumental part of settling the west, being used for a wide variety of tasks beyond just marking territory and maintaining cattle herds. Another one is the Rush County Historical Society Post Rock Museum, located next door to the barbed wire museum. Settlers had no access to timber or wood sources, but instead discovered limestone beneath the surface on their lands; they used this to replace the wooden posts with limestone posts that they had quarried and refined. The town has a small but sufficient number of restaurants on hand in case you decide it's time to refuel or just wind down the day's activities.
Kinsley has an unusual museum of its own, a sod house museum with exhibits of the kind of housing settlers often built in this area. The museum has artifacts from WWI and WW2, antique pianos, mastodon teeth, and more.
Fort Larned National Historic Site, KS is the perfect spot to start your next road trip.
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