8 Wonders of Kansas customs

An 8 Wonder of Kansas Customs

Converting rails to trails, Ottawa to Iola

Address: 8th & Main, Garnett, KS 66032
Website: www.bikeprairiespirit.com

Custom:  Converting rails to trails

Where it happened first in Kansas:  The Prairie Spirit Trail between Ottawa and Iola running through Garnett


The trail spans across the three Kansas counties of Allen, Anderson and Franklin and connects the communities of Ottawa, Princeton, Richmond, Scipio, Garnett, Welda, Colony, Carlyle and Iola.


The 51-mile Prairie Spirit Trail leads the state as the first and the longest rail-trail in Kansas providing hundreds of visitors each year a glimpse of Kansas' natural treasures and best kept secrets.  In fact, in July 2010, the trail became Kansas' 25th state park and it got a new name -- Prairie Spirit Rail Trail State Park.  The trail, a part of the National Rail Trail Network, is a multi-use trail designed for hiking and biking; non-motorized use and is open year round.

The trail's surface is approximately 12-feet wide and outside the city limits of Garnett, Iola and Ottawa it is composed of a hard-packed mixture of limestone and calcium chloride.  Inside Garnett, Iola and Ottawa the surface of the trail is asphalt. No permits are required inside these city limits. Trail passes are required for persons 16 years and older who travel outside these aforementioned city limits.

Photo courtesy Garnett Tourism


Created in 3 phases, Phase I from Richmond to Welda opened to the public on March 30, 1996. Phase 2, Ottawa to Richmond was completed in the sprint of 1998. Phase 3, Iola to Welda was opened for public use in the fall of 2008. The trail is managed and maintained by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Through agreements with the cities of Iola, Garnett and Ottawa, trail maintenance within city limits are provided by those cities.


As the seasons change in Kansas, the Prairie Spirit displays an ongoing change of beautiful scenery. From tall grasses to towering trees, the countryside shows off a variety of vibrant colors. The Prairie Spirit Trail is lined with lush wildflowers, such as the famous Kansas sunflowers which are brilliant in August, May apple, Dutchman breeches, Queen Anne's lace, butterfly milkweed, ox-eye daises, and many more.

Commonly seen  along the trail are white-tailed deer, quail, cottontail rabbits, great horned owls, and a variety of songbirds.

Whether an avid cyclist, a cross country snow skier, or the casual small town explorer, the Prairie Spirit Trail has something for everyone. Trail trekkers enjoy venturing over the many bridges which cross ponds, creeks, and the Marias De Cygne River and beside unique barns and other structures.  Another feature is the lakeside scenery found on both sides of Garnett -- Crystal Lake to the south and Lake Garnett to the north. RV camping and picnic areas are readily accessible at these lakes for trail users.

To the casual explorer, the communities along the Prairie Spirit are home to many

unique shops, eateries, historical sites and cultural experiences to enjoy. Those staying the

night can find rest at one of many lodging venues including motels, bed and breakfasts or scenic camping areas.

Geocaching is also an entertaining outdoor adventure opportunity on the Prairie Spirit Trail.


The trail is supported by an active group, the Friends of the Prairie Spirit Trail.

Sources:  Garnett Tourism Committee