Kansas was admitted to the Union in 1861. This state has a rich history, and each location has a story to tell. Kansas is also home to hundreds of ghost towns. These areas are fantastic to explore. They are full of haunting beauty as you walk around thinking about the residents who spent their lives in these abandoned towns. Here are the 17 best ghost towns in Kansas.
- 1. Alexander – Refuge for Many
- 2. Bavaria – Buffalo History
- 3. Black Wolf – Railroad Ruin
- 4. Bushong – Baseball Tradition
- 5. Carneiro – Smoky Hill
- 6. Diamond Springs – Sante Fe Trail
- 7. Dunlap
- 8. Elk Falls – Outhouses?
- 9. Gem – Train Depot
- 10. Kingsdown – Grew & Died Twice
- 11. LeHunt – Cement
- 12. Monument
- 13. Quindaro
- 14. Parkerville
- 15. Russel Springs – Natural Sprngs
- 16. Skiddy – Boom and Bust
- 17. Trading Post – Massacre
- Kansas Ghost Towns in the News
- Can You Metal Detect in Kansas Ghost Towns?
- Are Any Ghost Towns Haunted in Kansas?
- My Favorite Kansas Ghost Town Story
- Kicking up Kansas Dust
1. Alexander – Refuge for Many
Alexander is a tiny community, home to just 70 people. It is the oldest settled area in Rush County. Alexander was established in 1869 as a trading post on the north bank of Walnut Creek. This town was a refuge for traders, travelers, Cavalry, and freighters. The trading post was taken over by one of General Custer’s soldiers, Alexander Harvey. As more settlers arrived in the area, a post office was established with Alexander Harvey being the postmaster. The town eventually took Alexander’s name.
Harvey left the area in 1880. A railroad was built south of Walnut Creek in the late 1880s, and the small community was moved to the south side of the river, where it still lies today. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad came through town and the settlement thrived. By the 1900s, Alexander was home to 150 people, a bank, 2 creameries, retail stores, a telegraph office, and several churches.
Alexander grew until the end of World War II. The town declined, and today is home to a few residents and decaying buildings. The large school still sits, with memories of the students who passed through its doors. The interior is gutted, all the windows are broken, and the inside is littered with trash.
No trace of the once thriving trading posts exists outside of a small historical marker commemorating the site on the western edge of town.
Where to Find Alexander
Alexander can be found in Rush County, approximately 13 miles west of Rush Center, along Kansas Highway 96.
Insider Tip: Before traipsing around a ghost town, make sure the area is public property, or at least not private property. Do not take anything from these areas unless you have prior permission to remove items, especially artifacts. Some areas are open for people to take relics, but other areas strictly forbid this practice. Most of these areas still have residents, so be respectful!
2. Bavaria – Buffalo History
Bavaria is an unincorporated settlement originally known as Honek, named after the area’s first settler, Ernst Hohneck. Hohneck came to the area in 1865, after moving from his native Germany 15 years earlier. The chief endeavor of the area was buffalo hides and tallow. Hohneck’s Trading Ranch was created and included a brewery.
Hohneck’s Ranch became a regular stage coach stop, with the Kansas Stage Company, located on Fort Riley – Fort Larned Military Road, making frequent stops. The Union Pacific Railroad at Junction City opened in 1866, and Hohneck/s Ranch was along the far eastern leg of the Santa Fe Trail, multiplying the stops exponentially.
The boom was not to last, however, and in 1867, the railroad pushed past Hohneck’s Ranch to Fort Harker, and Junction City was the new official depot of the U.S. Postal Service. Ernst Hohneck left the area in 1883, but not before a man named E.F. Drake named the town Bavaria, in recognition of Hohneck’s German heritage.
At its peak, the town was home to about 150 people, had a drug store, wagon shop, school, blacksmith, syrup factory, lumberyard, general store, and many houses. The post office was officially closed in 1986. As of 2020, the population of Bavaria was round 60.
Where to Find Bavaria
Bavaria is located approximately 9 miles southwest of Salina, in Saline County.
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3. Black Wolf – Railroad Ruin
Black Wolf began as a station on the Union Pacific Railroad in the 1870s. The town produced coal in the 1880s and was home to many farms and ranches. Native American Chief Black Wolf is said to be the namesake for this town, as he had a camp on Cow Creek just north of town.
Black Wolf made national headlines in the 1920s when 2 masked robbers took to the demanding cash from the bank teller. The teller, Ray Artas, and his wife were locked in the vault while the robbers absconded with $500 (about $7,600 in today’s money).
As personal automobiles became more commonplace, people drove to nearby Ellsworth for business, and retailers began to leave Black Wolf. Today, the town has no business buildings, but a few residents remain. The Union Pacific Railroad still runs through the sleepy ghost town to this day.
Where to Find Black Wolf
Black Wolf sits on the northern bank of the Smoky Hill River in Ellsworth County, approximately halfway between Ellsworth and Wilson.
4. Bushong – Baseball Tradition
In the late 1880s, the Missouri Pacific Railroad built tracks across northern Lyon County. Joseph Weeks donated 20 acres to the railroad company, and the Weeks Station was built. The railroad company sold part of the acreage as town lots. The railroad company also built a large tank pond a mile east of town to supply steam engines with water before they pulled their train cars over the hills to Council Grove.
A school was built in 1886 and was used until 1948. In 1887, a post office was built, and the name of the town changed to Bushong in honor of Al Bushong, a baseball player for the St. Louis Browns. The town had about 75 residents at that time. A diphtheria outbreak occurred in 1984 causing 12 deaths. Bushong peaked in 1910 with a population of 250. The town was incorporated in 1927 and elected the first mayor, L.A. Grimsley.
Bushong was the home of one of the first generations of nuclear tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles during the Cold War. An Atlas class missile silo was developed and active from 1961 to 1965 as part of the 548th Strategic Missile Squadron. The post office closed in 1976, and today there are no businesses. About 30 residents still live in the once thriving community.
Where to Find Bushong
Bushong is located about 20 miles northwest of Emporia, in northwest Lyon County.
5. Carneiro – Smoky Hill
Carneiro began as a stop on the Smoky Hill Trail and really flourished when the Union Pacific Railroad built through the area. This small unincorporated town, first called Alum Creek Station, was established where the Smoky Hill Trail crossed Alum Creek. A post office was opened in late 1972. Carneiro was not officially established until Edward W. Wellington came to Kansas in the latter half of the 1870s.
The Harvard graduate and attorney bought 19,000 acres of land and created a large sheep ranch called the Monte Carneiro Ranch. Carneiro means “mutton” in Portuguese. Wellington, and some associates he brought with him, established the township in 1882 as a shipping point for their livestock. Stockyards, a motel, a school, 3 general stores, and a church were built in the town.
Today, all the stores and schools in the town are closed, and under a dozen people call Carneiro home. Despite the many abandoned structures, the town remains neat and tidy, with freshly trimmed landscapes and well-manicured homes.
Where to Find Carneiro
Carneiro sits along Kansas Highway 140, 11 miles east of Ellsworth. It is near the Kanopolis State Park and Mushroom Rock State Park.
Insider Tip: Kanopolis State Park is the oldest in Kansas. The area features rolling hills, woods along the Smoky Hills, and scenic bluffs. It has a full-service marina, beaches, picnic area, horseback riding, hiking, and mountain biking. There are 200 campsites throughout 14 campground. Take a scenic journey while visiting some of the ghost towns in Kansas! https://stateparks.com/kanopolis_state_park_in_kansas.html
6. Diamond Springs – Sante Fe Trail
Diamon Spring is so named because when the Santa Fe Trail was first surveyed, the area was called the “Diamond of the Plains.” Many immigrants traveling the Santa Fe Trail used Diamond Springs as a resting spot where they could recuperate and do some commerce and trading. Beyond Diamond Springs was known as the “Journey of the Dead” due to the numerous attacks by Native American tribes and lack of water.
Despite the dangers, the town grew, adding a post office in 1859. The town declined in the early 1900s, and the post office closed permanently in 1930. Today, the townsite features a few homes, stone ruins, and a cemetery. The spring now rises in a concrete cistern and is piped to a nearby stock tank on Diamond Spring Ranch, which continues to operate today.
Where to Find Diamond Springs
Diamond Spring can be found by taking U.S. Highway 56 from Council Grove about 14 miles to where it meets Kansas Highway 149. From here, turn south for about half a mile. The site lies across the Santa Fe Railroad tracks.
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Dunlap was founded in 1869 by Joseph Dunlap. In 1878, an escaped slave named Benjamin “Pap” Singleton settled in Dunlap. Following this, several freedmen, known as “Exodusters,” relocated to Dunlap. The population of the town boomed to just over 400 by the 1890s. A building boom occurred in the early 1900s, giving the town a stone city wall, 2 new brick schools, a department store, grocery store, co-op, drug store, funeral parlor, restaurants, banks, and a hotel.
Dunlap desegregated long before many other areas in the country, with black and white people coming together in schools and churches as early as the 1930s. Today, the town is home to just a few residents who make their homes along the dirt and gravel roads of Dunlap.
Where to Find Dunlap
Dunlap sits about 9 miles southeast of Council Grove, along the old Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway.
8. Elk Falls – Outhouses?
Elk Falls, in the heart of the Kansas Ozarks, calls itself the “World’s largest living ghost town.” It is also known as the “Outhouse capital of the world,” at one time attracting thousands of annual visitors to its outhouse tours, among other eccentric attractions.
The first settler in Elk Falls arrived in 1870. The townsite was then conceived, followed by the introduction of a real estate office, post office, drug store, general store, blacksmith, and school. By the 1880s, Elk Falls was home to 513 people.
Artists and craftsmen descended upon this dying town in the 2000s and the ghost town was once again drawing large crowds of visitors. Although many of these craftspeople and artists have moved on, Elk Falls still receives visitors. The Rock Garden, built in the 1930s, has been fully restored and is now home to Elk Falls Pottery. The annual Outhouse Tour is held on the Friday and Saturday before Thanksgiving.
Where to Find Elk Falls
Elk Falls is located about 35 miles northwest of Independence, on U.S. 160.
9. Gem – Train Depot
Gem was first known as Gem Ranch, established on land owned by J.W. Ellsworth. Gem became a train depot after 3 railroad companies laid tracks through the county. The town was organized in 1887 and by 1910 it had a bank, post office, churches, schools, mercantile, and a population of around 275.
The schools were abandoned in 1966, and the post office officially closed in 2014. About 85 residents still call Gem home, despite the lack of businesses and disrepair of the remaining buildings.
Where to Find Gem
Gem is approximately 9 miles northeast of Colby, in Thomas County.
10. Kingsdown – Grew & Died Twice
Kingsdown was established as a station on the Chicago, Rock Island, & Pacific Railroad in 1887. The railroad company built a depot, houses, and a roundhouse, and the town opened a post office in 1888. The town struggled, but kept growing at a slow, steady pace, until the railroad pulled out in 1898.
The railroad came back in 1910, built a new depot, and the population grew to about 150. The town declined again, and the train depot closed permanently in 1968. The post office closed in 1998. All that remains today is a grain elevator and a few homes.
Where to Find Kingsdown
Kingsdown is 6 miles southwest of Bucklin, on Highway 54.
11. LeHunt – Cement
LeHunt was a small town supported by the United Kansas Portland Cement Company. The area thrived in the 1920s, but shortly after died out because of the Great Depression. The concrete plant is half a mile west of the town’s remains and surrounded by overgrown bushes and trees.
LeHunt is said to be haunted by a man named Bohr, who worked at the concrete plant and was killed in a tragic accident. The story goes that Bohr fell into a concrete vat, and his body was never recovered. His tools and name can still be found at the old factory.
Where to Find LeHunt
Starting from Independence, take US 75 west about a quarter mile. Turn right on Peter Pan Road and continue north for 2 miles. The road changes to county road 3525. Follow this for another mile. Turn left on 5000 Road for another half mile to find LeHunt.
Monument is an unincorporated ghost town established in 1865. Originally an eating station of Butterfield’s Overland Despatch travelers going west through Fort Wallace stopped here. Military soldiers frequented the area, although it was never designated as a fort by the government.
Union Pacific Railroad operated tracks through the town in the early 1900s with a population of about 150. The town’s population was stable for decades, but the post office closed in 1994, the elementary school in 2004, and the population declined to about 50. The railroad still operates the grain elevators, and the area is still home to some farmers.
Where to Find Monument
Monument can be found 9 miles west of Oakley on U.S. Route 40 in northeast Logan County.
Metal Detecting Tip: After years of swinging my machine, I’ve come to realize find treasure is cool, but also having a conservation ethic is better. If you read just a little bit about the 1906 Antiquities Act you understand the idea of perseveration and conservation. Here’s a link. 👉 Antiquities Act U.S. Department of Interior
Quindaro is considered an extinct town today, but the area has a rich history. Quindaro was established on a bend in the river in 1850 because it was across from Missouri, and a stop on the Underground Railroad. Early settlers in the area were called “Seekers of Freedom” because of their escaped slave status.
The 70-acre Quindaro Townsite is now a National Commemorative Site and archaeological district. It was placed on the Historic Register in 2002. To read the full story of this incredible township, click here: https://legendsofkansas.com/quindaro-kansas/
Where to Find Quindaro
Quindaro now lies inside the City of Kansas City. It can be found between the Missouri River and 18th Street, and Brown Avenue and 42nd Street.
Parkerville is a semi-ghost town along the old Santa Fe Trail. It was founded when the Missouri, Kansas, Texas railroad came through the area. Established in 1870, Parkerville was home to a post office, homes, a boarding house, drug stores, dry goods store, hardware store, wagon shop, and harness shops. The town thrived during its early years, until the railroad built through the county, creating new settlements like Wesley and Herington. This took trade away from Parkerville.
Today, Parkerville is home to about 45 people, with no stores and only one church active in the town.
Where to Find Parkerville
Parkerville is 18 miles northwest of Council Grove on the Neosho River.
15. Russel Springs – Natural Sprngs
Russel Springs enjoyed many years as the Logan County seat, before losing the position to Oakley. The town began in 1965 as a stop on the Butterfield Overland Despatch stage line. Russel Springs is home to natural springs, which were used for a watering place. Nickel was found nearby, and some 60 mining claims were submitted. Several hundred people descended upon the town to mine for the precious ore.
Today, the population is just 24. The post office officially closed in 1997 and all schools were closed.
Where to Find Russel Springs
Russel Springs lies north of the Smoky Hill River along Kansas Highway 25 and U.S. Route 270.
16. Skiddy – Boom and Bust
Skiddy was founded by settlers from New Jersey and Pennsylvania in 1869. The town was named for Francis Skiddy, a New York investor who provided the incoming Missouri, Kansas, & Texas Railway with funding. By the 1900s, the town was as big as it would ever be, featuring a post office, general stores, telegraph office, and a hotel. The population was 90.
Today, Skiddy is home to just a handful of residents and some abandoned buildings.
Where to Find Skiddy
Skiddy is 8 miles northwest of White City, on the boundary line between Geary and Morris counties.
17. Trading Post – Massacre
Trading Post was the first permanent white settlement in Lin County. In 1825, a trader from Missouri named Cyprian Choteau was given a license to trade with certain Native Tribes west of the Missouri River. He created a trading post near the river where he did extensive trades.
The townsite was platted in 1865, although it was not successful and quickly abandoned. In 1866, another township was platted. This one was more successful and soon the area boasted 100 residents, 3 general stores, a drug store, agriculture dealer, and blacksmith.
The Marais des Cygnes Massacre occurred in 1858 here, where 11 free-state men were rounded up and shot, killing 5, and injuring 5. Trading Post continued its growth through the early 1900s and continued its decline throughout the 1910s. Learn more about Trading Post and the Marais des Cygnes Massacre here: https://legendsofkansas.com/trading-post-kansas/
Where to Find Trading Post
Trading Post is approximately 6 miles north of Pleasanton, on the Marais des Cygnes River.
Insider Tip: When exploring ghost towns, be mindful of the state of any buildings you may enter. Some of these have been in a state of disrepair for decades, and they simply are not safe to enter. Instead, enjoy them from the outside, or look through the windows.
Kansas Ghost Towns in the News
One reporter took a tour of Kansas ghost towns. He made several stops in different ghost towns, explored, and took pictures. This article details the buildings and condition of the various towns the reporter visited. Bushong and Dunlap were 2 of the ghost towns featured.
He wrote and published the following article: https://kansasreflector.com/2023/03/26/ruined-beauty-of-kansas-ghost-towns-and-buildings-splinter-under-weight-of-time/
Can You Metal Detect in Kansas Ghost Towns?
Unless the town is privately owned, you may metal detect in some Kansas ghost towns. Kansas laws are relatively strict as far as digging, so if you plan to dig anything, you will need a permit prior. To ensure you are not metal detecting on private property or federal land, contact the authorities in the area you plan to metal detect before heading out.
Looking for some “How To” metal detecting articles? I’ve got you covered
- Metal Detecting Digging Tools – Tells you all about shovels, scoops and how to dig a plug.
- Where are the Best Places for a Beginner to Metal Detect? – Just like the title says, this article points the beginner to the highest probability places.
- Can You Metal Detect on BLM Land? – So many people have asked me about BLM detecting I had to write this article.
Are Any Ghost Towns Haunted in Kansas?
As mentioned above, . Nearly all these ghost towns saw some type of tragedy or death. Each location has the potential to be haunted. If you visit one of Kansas’ many ghost towns, take along a digital recorder and camera to see if you can catch a spirit voice or image!
My Favorite Kansas Ghost Town Story
Quindaro is probably my favorite ghost town in Kansas. This town was used as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Imagine all the people exiting the boats along the river in this location, hoping and praying for a better life, a free life. Now part of a Kansas City neighborhood, Quindaro is rich in history, and I am huge history buff.
The Quindaro Underground Railroad Museum lies near the former site of the town and is a great learning experience for all who visit. Learn more about this museum here: https://www.travelks.com/listing/quindaro-underground-railroad-museum/4484/
Kicking up Kansas Dust
Sources indicate there are 308 ghost towns in the state of Kansas. These are some of the most interesting locations to visit in Kansas, and each one has a rich history to explore. As you look around, think about what life was like for the settlers in these areas. Think about how the towns once bustled with activity. It lends an eerie feeling yet makes you feel more connected to the early history of America.
Each entry on this list has its own unique history, its own challenges, and nearly all of them still have a few residents today. Be respectful while visiting these areas! Enjoy the haunting beauty of Kansas’ ghost towns!
David Humphries, Writer and Creator of METAL DETECTING TIPS. After borrowing my son’s detector and finding $.25. I felt like a treasure hunter. FREE MONEY! I was seriously bitten by the metal detecting bug.