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Route 66

Baxter Springs

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Route 66: Baxter Springs, Kansas

Baxter Springs, is the biggest town of the Kansas segment of Route66. It is well known for its Historic Baxter Springs Independent Oil and Gas Service Station, listed in the National Registry of Historic Places, and the American Civil War battle of "Baxter Springs" and the nearby Historic Site: "Rainbow Bridge".

Baxter Springs KS

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About Baxter Springs, Kansas

Facts, Trivia and useful information

Elevation: 843 ft. (257 m). Population: 4,238 (2010 census).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).

Baxter Springs is located in southeastern Cherokee county, Kansas, next to Springs River and the Oklahoma State Line.

Soda Fountain

Neon Sign: Soda Fountain, by Credits

The Historic Route 66 crosses the town from North to South.

Baxter Spring's History

This area has been inhabited for more than ten thousand years. The Osage Indians from Kentucky moved to this region in the mid 1600s and it is said that Chief Black Dog, stopped over at Baxter Springs during their migration to their summer hunting territories in Oklahoma. They visited the springs that gave their name to the town, as they believed that the water was good for their health. Their route, the "Black Dog Trail" was actually the first improved road in the region, a remote ancestor of Route-66.

The land was later set apart as the "Cherokee Neutral Lands", and eastern settlers were banned from entering it, but they soon entered the Region.

John J. Baxter settled with his family on a 160 acre homestead by Spring River in 1849. He opened an inn and general store (Baxter's Place); it was the first building in what would later become the town of Baxter Springs.

Baxter Springs, the name

The "Baxter" part of the name remembers the first settler, John J. Baxter, while the "Springs" part of the name comes from the mineral springs that at one time flowed from a hill just south of East 11th St.

A military road passed through his land, all the way from Fort Smith in Arkansas. It served to protect the region from the hostile Indians further west.

During the civil war, the US government built some defenses: Camp Hunt, Camp Ben Butler and Fort Baxter, or Fort Blair, the site of a battle.

Baxter Springs Massacre

On October 6, 1863, a guerilla band of Confederate men (Quantrill's Raiders) attacked the fort but were repelled. They then ambushed a wagon train that was approaching the fort. Quantrill demanded the surrender of Blair's men, but then executed the captives, murdering 103 men. The fort was later abandoned and destroyed by the Union forces.

The town was incorporated in 1868 and soon after a cable ferry was built across Spring River. After 1868, the growing demand for beef in the northern states led Texas ranchers to use the town as a stopover for their cattle herds as they drove them to the markets. Baxter Springs thus became the first "Cow Town" in Kansas, corrals were built, trade and the population grew. But after the mid 1870s, once the railways reached Texas, ranchers shipped the cattle directly by train and business in Baxter Springs declined.

Lead mining and smelting revived the economy but legislation passed by the City Council preserved the town from the nasty environmental impact suffered by neighboring towns.

The town surged with the mining business, and many buildings were built in the early 1900s. In 1926, Route 66 was created and ran along the town's Main Street. It brought prosperity and later compensated the decline in the mining industry. This wealth attracted the bandits of the early 1930s:

Bonnie and Clyde

Most Wanted, Bonnie and Clyde, by FBI

Bonnie and Clyde

During its heyday bank robberies were quite frequent. It is said that the famous criminal couple "Bonnie and Clyde" robbed stores in Baxter Springs and murdered police officers in neighboring Miami Oklahoma and Joplin, Missouri.

Clyde Champion Barrow and his companion, Bonnie Parker, met in Texas in January 1930 and were shot to death in Louisiana on May 23, 1934. They were suspected of kidnapping, robbery and 13 murders.

They did drive along Route 66 and they were ambushed by the police after a spectacular manhunt.

But in 1961, the new Interstate I-44 bypassed Kansas and US-66, running directly from Missouri to Oklahoma. This reduced the inflow of travelers and slowed the local economy.

Where to Stay

There are several hotels in Baxter Springs. Alternatively you can also lodge in the neighboring towns in Kansas, Missouri or Oklahoma:

Lodging Nearby...
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>> There is an RV campground in Baxter Springs.

Weather in Baxter Springs

Weather widget for the town nearest Riverton

The average temperature in Baxter Springs is about 60°F (15.6°C). Summers are quite hot with average highs of 91°F and lows of 70° (32.8 and 21.1°C).

During winter the highs are 44°F on average while the lows are about 24°F (7.2 and -3.8 °C).

Rainfall ranges from 2.1 in. (55 mm) to 6.3 in. (160 mm). April, May, June, July and September are the rainiest months 4.6 to 6.3 in. (118 - 160 mm). On average there are 9 days of rain or drizzle per month.

About 18 inches of snow fall between November and March (46 cm).

Tornado Risk. Baxter Springs is in the Kansas "Tornado Alley. During the April 27 - 30 tornado outbreak, a tornado struck Baxter Springs.

Read more about: Tornadoes on Route66.

Route 66 and Baxter Springs Kansas
Baxter Springs, Cherokee Co. KS, Route 66

Getting to Baxter Springs

Riverton is the third and last town in Kansas to the west of the Missouri state Line (and the first, coming from Oklahoma), it is 16 miles west of Joplin, Missouri and 12 miles south of Galena, on the Kansas - Oklahoma state line.

The small town of Riverton is 3 miles to the northeast.

Map of Baxter Springs and Route66

in Kansas between Missouri and Oklahoma.

Pale Blue: Historic Route 66 alignment.

Remove or restore State shading

Google Maps. Terms. Icons.

Route 66 itinerary through Kansas

Route 66 logo

Towns located on the Kansas segment of Route 66

From East to West

KANSAS, click on the town to see the towns located along US. 66.

Route 66 in Kansas

With only 13 miles, this is the shortest segment of US 66 in any state.

Current mileage: 13 mi.

Click to read the Full description of Route 66 across Kansas.

Attractions & Sights in Baxter Springs

Things to Do and See

Town Attractions

Baxter Springs

The town's Main Street is, Route 66, and it displays the typical architecture of an American "small town". Its brick faced buildings are remnants of a bustling past, when the street was packed with cars and travelers, during the hey-day of Route-66 when it was "America's Main Street". The "must-see-sight" are the classic buildings and the historic Independent Gas & Oil Service Station on Route 66:

Baxter Springs Independent Oil and Gas Service Station

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2003

940 Military Avenue - Highway 66, Baxter Springs, KS.

This service station is an example of the 1930s marketing strategies of the major oil companies during the Great Depression.

It is located on the northeastern corner of Military Ave and E. 10th St.

Historic Vintage Service Station at Baxter Springs, KS
Independent Oil and Gas Service Station

Baxter Springs Independent Oil and Gas Service Station
Independent Oil and Gas Service Station, Baxter Springs, Kansas

They designed their stations to blend into the town's scenery with a pleasant cottage design to sooth the locals and to provide a sense of security to the travelers.

It is located at the northern part of the town's commercial district, on Route 66.

Tudor Revival Style

This style imitated medieval English cottages; it had simple lines, steep pitched roofs, tall windows, brickwork walls and high chimneys.

It turned service stations into "automotive cottages", conveying travelers a warm homey feeling.

The building was enlarged in 1940, but its style was preserved. Originally part of the Independent Oil and Gas Co., but it was acquired in 1930 by Phillips Petroleum.

The main features of the cottage style were a pitched and gabled roof, brick and stucco walls, neat windows and a chimney. Notice the bay window by the entrance. It's "Tudor Revival "style is very similar to that of Phillips' McLean, Texas service station.

The bypassing of Baxter Springs by I-40 in 1961 reduced the flow of customers and the premises stopped selling gasoline. It would later house some shops until it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places and acquired by the local heritage society in 2003.

It was restored and now serves as the Kansas Route 66 Visitor Center.

The Pixar ⁄ Disney film Cars and Baxter Springs

The film's credits give "A Special Thanks To Those Who Inspire Us On Route 66, "The Mother Road" ... ", and mention: "Dean & Paula Walker, Baxter Springs, KS"

Café on the Route

Jesse Woodson James (1847 - 1882); an American outlaw, murderer, bank and train robber, train robber

The building is a Route 66 Roadside Attraction.

The Cafe, B&B and restaurant which closed in 2013, was housed in what used to be the Crowell Bank, built in the early 1870s, when the town was going through a boom period based on cattle ranching.

Local lore says that the Bank was robbed in 1876 by Jesse James.

Main Street Baxter Springs and Cafe on the Route
Café on the Route and Main St. in Baxter Springs Kansas
Static Image by Google Street View
Click on image for Interactive Google Street View

Baxter Springs Heritage Center

740 East Ave.

Exhibits collections of the Civil War, World War I and II, the early days of Baxter Springs, the mining district and of course: Route 66 memorabilia.

Bas Relief

12th St. and Military Av.

See the mural bas relief that portrays the history of Baxter Springs, it even includes Route 66's shield. On the South wall of American Bank.

Site of Fort Blair - Fort Baxter

Route 66th and 6th St.

There were some forts in Kansas to protect the settlers further east from raids of hostile Indians, but during the Civil War, they were built to escort military wagon trains through native territories.

Fort Blair was established in July 1863 and consisted of a block house, log cabins and a wall made of logs covered with rocks and soil. It was the site of the infamous Baxter Springs Massacre.

DAR Marker

10th St. and Park St. Johnston Public Library.

Erected in 1931, it is dedicated to Maj. Gen. James Blunt and his 135 men who were massacred during the Civil War.

Tours & Itineraries

Spring River

It was named in 1838, and is fed by the crystal clear springs of the area. A cable-ferry boat was built in 1867 and replaced by a bridge in the 1880s.

Its water moved the turbine water wheels of the Baxter Springs flour mill in the late 1800s, the only industry in town at that time.

Now it is used by campers and fishermen: Kiwanis Park is located to the east of the town, on the north side of E 12 St., next to the River.

Riverside Park on Spring River

On the south side of Highway 166. It has a boat ramp, tables, grills, rest rooms. Camping and RV facilities.

Tri-State Marker

Leave town from Military Ave/Rte.66 and head east along E 12th St, which is US-166 ⁄ US-400 follow it and cross the Missouri state line. When you reach the roundabout, take the first Exit onto E Nee Rd and after 0.1 mile turn left onto 118th St/S 700 Rd/State Line Rd and reach the marker, on the right. Total distance: 7.6 miles.

It is set at the point where Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma meet. It was built in 1938.

National Cemetery

US 166 & 5th St. 2 miles west of Route 66

The US government established it, with a soldier's plot where the victims of the Fort Blair Massacre were buried in a common grave in 1870. The names of the 88 men buried there are engraved in the monument.

US Highway 66

Marsh Arch "Rainbow" Bridge
Only remaining marsh arch bridge on Route 66

Only remaining Marsh Arch Bridge on U.S. 66, Riverton, Kansas, by Marcin Wichary

The Historic Rainbow Bridge is just 2.5 miles north of Baxter Springs, along Route 66.

Historic Route 66 alignment

Learn more about alignment of Historic Route-66 through Kansas.

Visit the neighboring towns of Galena and Riverton, to see other attractions in this very short (only 13 miles long!) segment of US Highway 66 in Kansas.

After I-44 bypassed Kansas, US-66 was decommissioned and in 1985 US-69 Alternate took over part of its alignment, the rest became K-66.


Image by White Pelican under its CC BY-SA 3.0 License

Image by Federal Bureau of Investigations Dept. of Justice, Famous Cases & Criminals. Public Domain.

Image by Kevin under its CC BY 2.0 License

Baxter Springs Station, Route 66: A Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary, National Park Service City's official website.

Image by Marcin Wichary under its CC BY 2.0 License.

Image Used as per Google Street View Image Api Updated Dec. 31, 2014.

Image by Vítězslav Válka adapted under its CC BY-SA 3.0 CZ License

Map Icons by Nicolas Mollet under its CC BY SA 3.0 License