135th Anniversary of the Battle of Punished Woman’s Fork

Cave in Battle Canyon. Photo by Mark Conard.

Cave in Battle Canyon. Photo by Mark Conard.

It’s been 135 years since the Northern Cheyenne and the US Cavalry were both at Punished Woman’s Fork, and this weekend, both will be back.

It was on September 27, 1878, the Northern Cheyenne, on their way back to their homeland, fought their last battle with the US Army in Kansas, a mile south of present day Scott City and Lake Scott State Park along Highway 95. In honor of that historic event, El Quartelejo Museum and Jerry Thomas Gallery and Collection are hosting the 135th Battle Canyon Symposium on September 27 and 28, 2013.

For a national historic site, it’s surprisingly unchanged from what it would have been like 135 years ago. That’s part of the beauty of the western prairie. Much has remained unchanged, and the rolling hills and canyons that were the site of such history and bloodshed remain steadfast, silent witnesses to a story that has often been overlooked.


Dedication from 4:00 to 5:30pm on Friday 9/27 at Punished Woman’s Fork National Historic Site. It was at 4:00pm on September 27 that the fighting began at the site.

Following the dedication and at the El Quartelejo Ruins Monument Site in Lake Scott State Park: native song and dance performance by the Northern Cheyenne and a 4th US Cavalry exhibition from 6 to 8:30pm.

Saturday is the big day with the Jerry Thomas Gallery and Collection at El Quartalejo Museum hosting the speakers, including Northern Cheyenne leaders, descendants from the Cheyenne chiefs, and historians.


Sent to a Southern Cheyenne Reservation in Oklahoma in 1877, the Northern Cheyenne had little food and there was a measles outbreak, and there was little hope of survival. Dull Knife and Little Wolf, Cheyenne chiefs, took matters into their own hands, and the night of September 9, 1878, with the fires left burning, they led over 300 Cheyenne off the reservation. They were headed back to Yellowstone Country, 1500 miles away.

Rifle pit

Rifle pit. Photo by Mark Conard

By September 13, 1878, troops had found them, and surrender was offered as an option. Dull Knife refused to go back to the reservation, and Cheyenne and army troops began fighting.

A cat and mouse game continued through the next week with the Cheyenne trying to get away and fighting back until they reached “Punished Woman’s Fork” on September 25, 1878.

This was to be the place of their last stand, and it was chosen specifically. The remote canyon had a natural cave at one end where women, children, and the elderly could take shelter, and along the hills and bluffs, rifle pits could be dug to provide cover for the Cheyenne fighters. The US soldiers could be lured into the canyon (now known as Battle Canyon) and ambushed with the landscape acting as an additional weapon for the Cheyenne.

One of the fighters described the incoming soldiers: “A great angry snake of whites come against us in the morning.”

September 27, 1878, those not fighting took shelter in the cave, and the battle began. The Cheyenne ended up backed into Battle Canyon, but they drove the army back and took out Lt. Col. Lewis, Commander of Ford Dodge, Kansas, who’d once said “I will run the Cheyenne to ground or leave my body on the prairie.” He did the latter.

The night of September 27, the US army pulled back to camp, and the Cheyenne again made their escape in the night with their fires left burning and continued heading north.

Nearby trails

The trail around the perimeter of Lake Scott State Park will be one of our top 10 trails in the guidebook. Easy to follow, it’s got some incredible views out over the lake and of the nearby cliffs.

BBQ, music, and riding: Bike events this weekend

Hikers aren’t the only ones out on the trails. Many of the best trails we’ve found in Kansas have been made for mountain biking. And this weekend, 8/24 and 8/25, there are some great bike races and events going on throughout the state.

Cruise the Blues Mountain Bike Race – 8/23-8/25/2013

Amidst the timber, pastures, and prairie of the Palen Family Farm east of Tipton, the Palen family has built 13 miles of mountain biking trails. These private trails are open to riders this weekend for the 10th annual Cruise the Blues bike race.

5-mile and 9-mile race options are available that can be ridden solo or as a part of a team, and there’s a kid’s race course as well. There will be bbq, live music, and general hilarity throughout the weekend.

From the Cruise the Blues website:

Make it a weekend! We invite you to join us out on the farm Friday, Saturday and Sunday August 23-25th.

Come on out and join us on Friday and Saturday nights with free camping under the big Oak trees on the Palen Family Farm and wake up to a farm fresh breakfast to get your day started right!

Friday night, get your registration check in out of the way early, and join us for a fun bike tour of the farm with Farmer Doug, savor the taste of a Farm Fresh Kansas Style BBQ and take a shot at the short course hot lap night time trial! (Lights will be made available for all riders who need them courtesy Doug Chambers at Golden Belt Bicycles.)

Saturday morning, wake up to a Palen Farm Fresh Breakfast and get ready for a great day of racing.

Stay the night on Saturday and enjoy an evening of fun and festivities, live music (the 5 piece band Gamma Raze will be playing Blues and old time rock and roll), bike games and more. Wake up to another farm fresh breakfast Sunday morning and enjoy open riding on the farm or join a guided ride of the IMBA Epic Designated Trails at Wilson Lake State Park.

Parking and camping is free! Free-wifi and electronic charging stations will be available along with primitive hot showers, washing stations, changing areas and bathroom facilities. RVs welcome!

Click here for registration.

Rock & Roll to Roots – 8/24/2013

The Roots Festival ($15 entry cost) held in the Paola Square brings together bluegrass, bbq, and biking. The Miami County Velo Cycling Club is hosting 10, 30, and 60 mile rides. While registration is closed, you can cheer on participants as they start and finish at Wallace Park on the morning of 8/24.

PedalFest – 8/24/2013

A cross country mountain bike race.

A cross country mountain bike race. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Three leisurely rides through the Wichita countryside for PedalFest will benefit Heartspring, an organization that helps kids with special needs achieve more independence.

Choose from a 50K (31 miles), 100K (62 miles) and Family Ride (5 mile). The 50K and 100K start at 7:30am and the Family Ride starts at 9:30am from Heartspring in Wichita.

Registration is still open Friday until 6pm at Bicycle Pedaler and early Saturday morning at the race start at Heartspring. Registration is $45 for the 50K and $50 for the 100K. The 5-mile Family Ride is $10 per person. For registration, you get food and a t-shirt along with a handful of other perks and freebies.

Shawnee Rotary Bike Rodeo – 8/24/2013

Perfect for kids and for giving parents some peace of mind, this event at the Mill Valley High School (5900 Monticello, Shawnee) is all about staying safe while having fun on your bike. From 9am to noon, kids who plan to ride their bikes to school can learn safety training, and get a certificate after completing a skills course. Freebies include: t-shirt, bike helmet, bike helmet fitting, and bike inspections.

Tour de Shawnee – 8/25/2013

This annual event, now in its 24th year, gives participants the choice between a 12-mile and a 25.75-mile route through bike-friendly Shawnee. For $30, you get a t-shirt, breakfast, and lunch. Along the way, there will be snacks, drinks, and vehicle support, including medical assistance and bike repair. You also get the satisfaction of knowing that you’re participating in an event that benefits the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

The tour will start and end at Power Play Family Entertainment Center, Shawnee Mission Parkway and Pflumm.

Fill out a registration form and drop it off at the Shawnee Civic Centre, 13817 Johnson Drive.

150 years later: Live tweet of Quantrill’s 1863 Raid

August 21, 1863. The border skirmishes that had been happening between pro-slavery Missouri and anti-slavery Kansas since the 1850s escalated with the burning and slaughter some 180 men in Lawrence.

Led by former Lawrence school teacher and outlaw William Quantrill in a well-planned attack, 400 men rode from Missouri to Lawrence in the morning hours. Much of the town burned and nearly 200 people were killed, some in front of their families. It wasn’t an entirely unprovoked attack. Lawrence had been a gathering place for “Jayhawkers” and other pro-Union fighters, and they’d crossed the border themselves in the past to attack Missouri towns.

And 150 years to the day of this horrific and historic event, the city of Lawrence has organized a unique event: a Community Twitter Project where community members have been given identities of those involved in the battle and will “live” tweet the event starting early on August 21. The tweets have already started, giving some background to those key players in the event. Check out the tweets here or follow #QR1863.

If you’re in the Lawrence area, you can learn more about the raid with the self-guided tour.

“Float Your Boat” – Cardboard boat races today at Milford Lake

From the 2009 race

From the 2009 race

If you’re around Milford Lake at all today (Saturday, August 17), if you head down to the south boat ramp, you’ll be able to check out the cardboard boat races. From noon to 4pm, you can watch (or participate!) in the “Float Your Boat” race where participants ride in boats made entirely from cardboard and duct tape. If you want to whip up your own creation that can hold two people, there are cash prizes available!

4th of July with the Kansas State Parks

It’s been awhile since our last post – we’ve been hard at work out on the trails in this (relatively) balmy weather. We’ve been on the trails in south central and south east Kansas from El Dorado Lake to Cross Timbers State Park.

One of this year's cutest baby contestants enjoying watermelon in 2012

One of this year’s cutest baby contestants enjoying watermelon at the 2012 Old Fashioned 4th of July

But we’re taking a break to celebrate the 4th of July in Sterling with its Old Fashioned 4th of July. From an early morning run, to watching the turtle races, to rooting for our favorite in the cutest baby contest, and, of course, fireworks and lots of yummy food, it’s going to be a great day to relax and recharge to get ready to get back on the trails.

As for Kansas state parks, there’s only one that allows fireworks: Elk City State Park: July 1-4, 6:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. Designated area only.

But there are plenty of fun and free events for the 4th at the parks. (If you don’t have an annual park pass, you’ll likely need to get a $5 day pass for any and all vehicles coming into the park.) From the KDWPT website:


Eisenhower State ParkSplash of Color (Tie Dye T-shirts) from 3 to 5pm.

El Dorado State Park – Fireworks Display

Friends of El Dorado Lake – Parade

Friends of Pomona State Park – Free Movie Night/Coffee and Donuts

Pomona State Park – Fireworks Display


Eisenhower State Park – “Wreck-It Ralph” Movie Night

Toronto Point/City of Toronto – Toronto Days


Cross Timbers State ParkToronto Days

Eisenhower State Park – Sand Castle Contest

Glen Elder State Park – Fireworks display

Kanopolis State Park – Fireworks display

Perry State Park – Fireworks display

Wilson State ParkLake Wilson Area Association Poker Run


Toronto Point/City of Toronto – Toronto Days


How are you going to be celebrating the 4th?



Food and fun: Smoky Hill River Festival June 6-9, 2013

Art installation at the 2012 Smoky Hill River Festival. Photo by TravelKS

Art installation at the 2012 Smoky Hill River Festival. Photo by TravelKS

The 37th Smoky Hill River Festival has kicked off with a concert tonight followed by events all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

We lived for six years in Salina, and every year, I was surprised and amazed by the wealth of art, crafts, music, and food. Delicious, delicious fair-style, food-truck food. Funnel cake for breakfast? Don’t mind if I do. Turkey leg as big as my face? Sure!

Art installations are scattered around the park, and there’s a fine art show and demonstrations along with tents with activities for kiddos, like craft making and face painting. One of my favorite memories from River Fest (along with the blur of good food, good friends, and good music) was finding a drawing with my brother that we wanted to get for my dad for his birthday. It was an ink drawing that was reversible – flip it one way and it told one story, the other way and it told another – from despair to hope just on the perspective of the image.

Musician Amanda Barrett of The Ditty Bops perf...

Musician Amanda Barrett of The Ditty Bops performing at the 2007 Smoky Hill River Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was around $50, which for us, as high school students who mowed lawns for cash, was a lot of money. We spotted it on a Sunday, the last day of the festival, and we thought it would be just about the coolest gift we could come up with. Far and above the gifts of stapled together coupon books (1 free hug for Dad. 1 session of washing dishes).

We scraped together the $50 and came running back, hoping that the artist hadn’t sold the painting yet. He hadn’t, but we weren’t yet in the clear. We’d neglected to think through the additional amount for tax. We looked at each other in dismay – we’d lost after all. But the artist (I wish I remembered his name!) took pity on us and waived the tax. The drawing still hangs in our parent’s house today. It was a simple thing, but the kindness of the artist, when he could have just shrugged his shoulders and said sorry, has stayed with me.

Every hour throughout the weekend starting from 10am and running through the evening, there will be music performances, with the main events happening at Eric Stein stage on Friday and Saturday night. Check out the full schedule here.

Food court. Photo by TravelKS

Food court. Photo by TravelKS

Where: Oakdale Park at South Second and Mulberry. Parking and free shuttle service at Bicentennial Center

When: Gates open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings at 9:30am

Cost: A River Fest button is required, and they’re $15 at the gate if you didn’t get one ahead of time. The button gets you into all 3 days. Kids 11 and under get in FREE!

What’s your favorite River Festival memory? Let us know in the comments!

Konza Prairie annual wildflower walk – Sunday, June 2

Konza Prairie wildflowers

From 6:30 to 9:00pm on Sunday, June 2, the Kansas Native Plant Society will be hosting its annual wildflower walk. Naturalists will take visitors along the Butterfly Hill Trail, which isn’t normally open to the public, and they will point out and identify the wild variety of native wildflowers that can be found in the prairie. Bring bug spray and comfortable walking shoes and, of course, your camera as you learn more about the native plants of Kansas and marvel at the vistas of the Konza Prairie (which will be highlighted in our Kansas Trails guidebook).

Cost: $10 per person. All proceeds go to Konza Environmental Education Program, whose mission is to: “enhance the understanding of the ecology of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem; increase understanding of the process and value of science; and increase public appreciation for the importance of scientific research as a foundation for sound grassland conservation and management.”

Where: Meet at Konza Prairie Biological Station, 100 Konza Prairie Lane