We are going to let you in on a little secret. There is gold in the Smoky Hills. It’s not be nuggets of the shiny substance that has been the reason for mass migrations. The precious treasure we are talking about is found in the local attractions found in a variety of towns and cities. The fertile rolling hills have attracted visitors for thousands of years. Many came to make a home, while others were merely passing through the Crossroads of the Heartland. With all of this activity, we were glad to see that the Smoky Hill Museum has recorded some of these excursions. This FREE Salina, Kansas museum is a great place to gain some new perspectives.
The search for gold in the Smoky Hills has been going on for over 1500 years. Way back in 1541, Francisco de Coronado first laid eyes on the Smoky Hill River. His quest was to discover the fabled city of ‘Quivira’. While he failed to find gold, he did happen upon the thatched villages of the Wichita tribe. In a letter to the King of Spain, he suggested these lands were the best he had seen for producing all of the products of Spain. Many of the native nuts and fruits were similar to those from his native lands. Subsequent explorations would be made by famous explorers like John Fremont and Zebulon Pike.
Life on the Plains
The Smoky Hill Museum is compact but filled with treasures. They have designed the spaces to be interactive and educational. This family-friendly attraction allows visitors to pass through time as they learn the direct connection between the land and the people who reside there. A model of a one-room pioneer house reminded us of the value of modern conveniences. Can you imagine what life was like facing the changing seasons in Kansas?
Like most museums, Smoky Hill has rotating exhibits. Let’s Play is one that will run through November 26, 2022. We enjoy seeing these types of displays, as it makes each visit a little different. This particular exhibit focused on toys and the kids who played with them. We felt that this approach brought a personal touch that helps visitors connect with the story. Stepping into the timeline, we found ourselves transported back to the late 1890s. It is interesting to see how some of those early games, like Tic-Tac-Toe, are still played around the world.
Back in the pre-television days, people got their entertainment from the radio. We’ve all seen the movies or shows that have families sitting around listening to their favorite programs. The Smoky Hill Museum explains the usage of radio in terms that are easy to understand. That is a big deal when you are visiting with a group that has a wide age range. Seeing other museum visitors confirmed the importance of this approach.
Taking a deeper dive into the exhibit, we found ourselves intrigued by the life and times of Dick & Devere. These junior sleuths became embroiled in a wide range of adventures. While the names are fictitious, they were based on real children from Salina. On top of these rascals escapades, visitors can also listen to excerpts from popular radio shows of the 30s and 40s. Having grown up in the television era, it was intriguing to hear how descriptive the programs were, as they played out the exciting exploits.
Smoky Hill Museum
These little nuggets of fun make our travels more interesting. Each stop offers some stories that help us connect with the locals. Learning about life in the Crossroads of the Heartland reminded us why we love our home state. We are planning to make more visits to this region in the future. There is still a lot to explore and share with all of you. If you are familiar with this area, we’d love to hear your suggestions for places to visit. Thanks!