Smallest Town on Kansas Route 66!
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About Riverton, Kansas
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation: 833 ft. (254 m). Population: 929 (2010 census).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).
Riverton is located along Route-66, in southeastern Cherokee county, Kansas and Historic Route 66 crosses the town with a west to east direction.
This part of Kansas was the home of Paleo-Indians over 10,000 years ago. In historic times, Francisco de Coronado, a Spanish "Conquistador" explored the area in 1541, seeking for gold. The French took possession of the territory and named it Louisiana. It was sold to the U.S.A. in 1803.
The land was set apart as the Cherokee Neutral Lands, and white men were banned from entering it. But the mining wealth and the fertile territory west of the Ozarks attracted settlers.
Settlers encroached on the Region, and just south of Riverton, and the confluence of Spring River and Shoal Creek, the settlement of Lowell sprung up in the 1860s.
After the Civil War, the Dutch Quakers came to the region Lowell had grown into a town with flour mills, lime kilns and a school. Galena was founded across Spring River, 3 miles to the east, in 1876.
The Quaker Valley settlers wanted a post office and they got the help of an influential person living in Baxter Springs to help them, His name was "Dad Varrick" and the Quakers had requested that the post office be given his name. The Postmaster General agreed but cut the name short, to "Varck" as one syllable was better than two or more for post office names.
The Frisco railroad linked Joplin, Galena and Baxter Springs and, at had a stop by the Varck post office (more on it below). This was the origin of the community and the School District #5. It soon changed its name for Riverton, and began to grow when the power company plant was built in 1906-7 (it supplied electricity to the mining industry).
Riverton, the name
"Ton" is an Anglo-Saxon word for "village" or "settlement", "town", and the nearby Spring River led to the name: "Riverton" (town on the river).
It is an unincorporated community.
Getting to Riverton
Riverton is the second town in Kansas to the west of the Missouri state Line, it is 12 miles west of Joplin, Missouri and 5 miles north of Baxter Springs on the Kansas - Oklahoma state line. Galena is 4 miles east of the small town.
Hotels in Riverton
Where to Stay
You can lodge in town or, alternatively you can also find your hotele in the neighboring towns in Kansas, Missouri or Oklahoma.
>> Book your Hotel in Riverton
Lodging West, along US66
>> Check out the RV campgrounds in neighboring Baxter Springs
Weather in Riverton
Location of Riverton on U.S. Hwy. 66
Riverton has an average temperature of 60°F (15.6°C). Summers are quite hot with maximum temperatures averaging 92°F and minimums around 70° (32.8 and 21.1°C).
Winter average highs are 44°F and the lows are 24°F (7.2 and -3.8 °C) respectively.
Rainfall is fairly regular with peaks of 5.3 in. in late spring (160 mm) and minimum values of 2.5 in. (65 mm) in winter. The town experiences about 8 or 9 days of rain or drizzle every month. About 12.4 inches of snow falls between November and March (32 cm).
Tornado Risk. Riverton is located within Kansas' "Tornado Alley. Read more about: Tornadoes on Route66.
Map of Route 66 in Riverton, KS
Check out Riverton on our Route 66 Map of Kansas, with the complete alignment and all the towns along it.
Riverton US Hwy 66 Map
Click on the thumbnail for a large size map (published in 1900). It shows "Varck" on the Kansas City, F.C. Scott, and Memphis Railroad, Galena and Baxter Springs. The main link between the latter was a zigzag course through Lowell, where it crossed the river.
The following map published in 1924 (two years before Route 66 was created) shows the "auto trails" of that time. The road marked (2) is Jefferson Highway, and (50) is Ozark Trails, both went through Riverton (which is located between Galena and Baxter Springs). The road follows the zigzag course shown in the 1900 map (approximate map).
This is a later map, from 1927.
Sights and Attractions in Riverton
Riverton's US 66 sights
Riverton historic context
In 1946 Jack DeVere Rittenhouse drove along Route 66 gathering data for book "A Guide Book to Highway 66". He described Riverton as follows:
...Pop. 104; alt. 900'; Jayhawk Court; gas; limited facilities Rittenhouse (1946)
One mile west of the town he mentioned "Gas station at this point".
We will begin our tour on the east side of Riverton, at the bridge that carries Route 66 across Spring River.
Spring River Bridge
The first bridge was built in 1922 and in 1926 carried Route 66. It was 525 feet long, had three spans of concrete and was a "Marsh Through Arch" bridge. In 1964 a second bridge was built next to it when US66 was expanded to four lanes. The two westbound lanes ran along the arch bridge and the eastbound lanes used the new six span steel girder bridge. The old bridge was replaced by a new one in 1986, and one close to Baxter Springs was replaced in 1991, so now the only remaining Marsh Arch Bridge in Kansas is the historic Brush Creek Marsh Bridge (Rainbow Bridge).
Spring River Inn neon sign (while it was still there). Credits
Spring River Inn site
Just 400 feet after the western tip of the bridge, to your right, at the junction with Herold Oak Rd. you will see two stone pillars on each side of the side road. They marked the entrance to the Spring River Inn.
Formerly there was a neon sign atop the pillar (compare the picture with this street view) but it was removed for restoration in 2013, but it never returned.
The sixty acres of wooded land on the western side of Spring River were purchased by the upper crust of Joplin for the private "Country Club" they formed on March 24, 1905. They built a twenty-two room clubhouse and a boathouse. Membership dropped off, dwindling from the original four hundred members to thirty six by 1932, so the club disbanded and sold its assets to former club president J.W. Grantham from Baxter Springs who turned it into his country home.
The restaurant opened in 1954. It was originally ran by the Harrelds, and had a neon sign proclaiming it was "World Famous" for its "Smorgasbord". The restaurant was vast, serving upto 2,000 guests at night in its six dining areas. One of them could seat 350 diners. The Birkins operated it from 1970 to 1994. It closed for good in 1994 and burned down in 1998.
Empire District Electric Co.
Across the highway, to the south is the "Empire District Electric Company" the power plant was built in 1890-1910 and is still in operation; one of the oldest in the US. It began as a hydro-electric facility (More about the Riverton Dam below), and has converted from burning coal to gas.
Head west for 0.2 miles, to visit the historic Old Store.
Riverton's Historic Nelson's Old Store
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
7109 SE Highway 66, Riverton.
The place has had many names over its almost 100 years of existence: "The Williams' Store", "Eisler Brothers Store", and "Nelson's Store"
It is the oldest continuously operating store on Route 66: Open since 1925.
Leo Williams opened a small diner after he returned from serving in the US Army during World War I in 1918. He worked for the Empire District Electric Plant and his wife Lora took care of the shop.
A Tornado destroyed the premises in 1923, so he rebuilt it: a one-story store in 1925, which is still open; it was known as the Williams' Store
When Route 66 was created in 1926 a growing flow of visitors passed in front of the store and it was included as an official stop on the maps of the 1930s and 40s.
Besides the diner, it was a gas station, and the store had a shop that sold food, candy, ice, and clothes. It even had a croquet court, but later removed it to add parking space.
Williams sold Texaco gas at first, later Standard Oil. He ran the store until 1945, and then leased it out, but after Leo died in 1948 at tje age of 56, his widow Lora took it over again and ran it until she retired in 1970.
Below it has a sign with "Lora Williams" written on it, and also an Standard Oil gas sign on the left above the car.
Lora's daughter's mother-in-law purchased the store 1972 and sold it to Isabell and Joe Eisler in 1973.
The store was renamed as Eisler Bros Old Riverton Store. Their nephew, Scott Nelson worked there and managed the store. In 2011 he bought it from the estate after his aunt and uncle passed away.
Enjoy its virtually unchanged ambiance, with a glass-enclosed porch, pressed-tin ceiling and old shelves. It sells groceries and Route 66 souvenirs.
The Store and the Pixar ⁄ Disney movie "Cars"
When the studio decided to make the animated film, it sent out scouts along Route 66 to identify iconic characters and unique features. They reached Kansas and stopped at the Eisler Bros. Store. It inspired them and apparently the short "Mater and the Ghostlight" was also inspired by the story of a Ghost Light by Dean Walker.
The film's credits give "A Special Thanks To Those Who Inspire Us On Route 66, "The Mother Road" ... Scott Nelson, Eisler Brothers Old Riverton Store, "Home Of The Hand-Crafted Sandwiches", Riverton, KS".
Head west and take a left at the next corner (SE 70th St.), and drive 0.4 miles south. To your right at 7378 SE 70th Street, next to the now lifted railroad tracks is the old Varck Post Office.
Old Varck Post Office
The two story building was built in 1898. It was the home of the Osborn family, post office, grocery, general mercantile and animal feed store. There was no depot or railroad station at Varck. The train dropped off and picked up the mail withoud stopping.
Route 66 drew the focus to the north side of the community after 1926. This building was damage by the Great Flood of 1993 and a new post office built to the north, in Riverton proper.
It has been restored and since 2018 is owned by Jim and Kristi Adams as "The Old Riverton Post Bed & Breakfast" (you can book your room using this link).
Below is a vintage 1930s photo of the General Store and Post Office, notice the gas pumps in front of the building.
Continue south for 0.2 miles to visit "Riverton Dam".
The Empire District Electric Company built a hydroelectric power dam on Spring River. Actually it built two dams to contain the water of the river and Shoal Creek. The Lowell powerhouse (street view) is one mile south, and is no longer operating, but still standing.
The northern closure shown in the picture, as seen from the new bridge, originally supported a bridge above the dam's spillways as you can see in this old postcard.
The dam forms the 440 acre Lake Lowell, protected by a state park, which has RV campsites and hookups; more info at the Lake Lowell State Park website.
Retrace your steps back to Route 66 and turn left, head west go around the US 66 - US 400 roundabout and stop at the Route 66 information kiosk and visit the sculpture.
Route 66 FFA steel shield sculpture
Route 66 FFA steel shield sculpture, made from hubcaps. Riverton KS
This sculpture is the work of FFA students from Riverton. It is a steel structure 20-feet tall, built with a lot of work and a minimum budget: $300 provided by the Route 66 Byway Committee and Cherokee County, and scrap metal and old hubcaps donated by the Kansas DOT. See map.
The students' goal was to promote the area's tourism with an original artwork. The kiosk has displays with information about the communities along Kansas Route 66 segement.
Head west for 1.5 miles and visit the "Historic Rainbow Bridge".
Historic Bush Creek Bridge
James Barney Marsh
The "Rainbow Bridge"
Located on Old Route 66 and Bush Creek, just 2.5 miles west of Riverton, KS.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1983
This is an Original Route 66 concrete arch bridge built in 1923, three years before the creation of the Mother Road, and the only remaining Marsh Bridge in Kansas.
American engineer, James Barney Marsh (1856 - 1936) studied bridge building and came up with a novel design, for which he was awarded a patent in 1912: the "Marsh Arch Bridge". He would build over 70 of these concrete bridges in the Midwest, of which half are still in use.
The concrete road which would become part of Route 66 in 1926, was created in the early 1920s, it was built to link the mining towns of the region (Baxter Springs, Galena and Riverton). The bridge was constructed on this road in 1923.
It is a slender and elegant bridge, with a pair of concrete arches. It is 130 feet (40 m) long, 20 feet wide (6.1 m) and the rise of the arches is 27 feet (8.2 m) and is the only one of its kind in Kansas (two other bridges were also located on the Route 66 stretch in Kansas Willow Creek and Spring River have been torn down).
The bridge was repaired in 2005.
Marsh's patent described how the bridge could be built without a falsework or scaffolding because it used structural steel and was self-supporting. It minimized the use of concrete, this made his bridges cheaper and quicker to build.
This is the end of your city tour along Route 66 through Riverton, head south past the bridge and visit Baxter Springs
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> > Book your accommodation in Riverton
Banner image: Hackberry General Store, Hackberry, Arizona by Perla Eichenblat
Kansas Historic Route 66 Corridor Management Plan 2011
Riverton School History, Danny Anderson.
History of Cherokee County, Kansas and representative citizens, 1904. Nathaniel Thompson Allison, Ed. Comp.
Williams' Store, Riverton, Kansas. National Park Service
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.