Alcove Springs

(Frank) And we’re back. I just had this thought-it’s very obvious we’re back, but we have to think we have to say, we’re back! Hey, I know you know this, but you know, Kansas had all kinds of trails coming through it, I mean we’re pretty much the center of the United States, and so there were cattle trails and of course there were trails… (Deb) Just like this. (Frank) …heading to Oregon and California and all of that. And this was one of the stops. So, with that I’m gonna kind of let you talk a little bit about that. (Deb) Well if you haven’t been to Alcove Springs, it is beautiful and it is easy to see why it became a popular stop with folks along the Oregon Trail, and it’s just…it’s like an oasis in the prairie you know with the trees and it’s beautiful, falls again, they do have actual little falls there. But it’s just one of those beautiful, must have been a beautiful respite for the pioneers that were coming through. So, we’re gonna take a look at that. Our friend Bob Hoard, state archaeologist, recently headed a group of volunteers that conducted an archaeological survey at Alcove Springs on the Blue River downstream from Marysville. As Bob wrote in the Kansas Preservation Magazine, Alcove Spring is one of the best-known stops on the Oregon Trail and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Proposed parking areas necessitated the investigation to insure that nothing important would be lost of disturbed. The arm of volunteers turned up few artifacts, including a five-cent piece from 1866, but not enough to delay the construction plan. This picturesque area was a favorite campsite near the Independence Crossing of the Big Blue River. The spring originates in an unusual rock formation and falls over a rock ledge into a pool below. Emigrants carved their names in the rocks surrounding the spring and many of these carvings are still visible. The ill-fated wagon train led by George Donner and James Reed camped here in May, 1846. Later that year, trapped in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, some of the pioneers resorted to cannibalism to survive. While camped in the lushness of Alcove spring, though, one of their number wrote “We found a large spring of water, as cold and pure as if it had just been melted from ice. It gushed from a ledge of rocks, which composes the bank of the stream, and falling some ten feet, its waters are received into a basin. A shelving rock projects over this basin, from which falls a beautiful cascade of water, some ten or twelve feet. The whole is buried in a variety of shrubbery of the richest verdure. Altogether it is one of the most romantic spots I ever saw. We named this the Alcove Spring and future travelers will find the name graven on the rocks, and on the trunks of the trees surrounding it.” Reed’s mother-in-law died here while the party was waiting for the river to fall enough to cross. She was buried somewhere in the area. In September the Topeka Symphony Orchestra opened its 70th season at Alcove Spring. Kyle Pickett, music director and conductor, told the Topeka Capital Journal that performing music in the natural setting of Alcove Spring was “an unparalleled experience.” Alcove Spring is located about six miles south of Marysville on the River Road. Follow the highway directional signs.

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