Leavenworth Walking Tour title

Leavenworth trails: In history’s footsteps

Meeting Leavenworth’s famed folks in 10,000 steps

People know Leavenworth, Kan., as the home of Fort Leavenworth and the Leavenworth federal prison. People should know Leavenworth for its famous residents and visitors. Meet many of these influential people on the Leavenworth walking trails. They include Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, Susan B. Anthony, William T. Sherman, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Carry Nation. As an avid walker, I was anxious to explore Leavenworth’s trail system. Starting from the TownePlace Suites, where I was hosted, my walk gave me 10,716 steps.

Missouri River from Riverfront Park
Imagine rowing upstream against this current all day, every day for thousands of miles.

Riverfront Park on Leavenworth walking trails

Riverfront Park was my first stop, where Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery stopped twice. In June 1804, Clark noted that they had traveled 12 miles upstream. He complained about suffering in the heat. Can you imagine rowing up the Missouri River?

Walking Leavenworth’s Wayside Tour

The northeastern end of the Wayside Tour is a short walk from Riverfront Park. “Bleeding Kansas” is the first marker on North Esplanade Ave. Leavenworth was a hotspot in the battle to determine whether Kansas would become a free or a slave state. On Sept. 1, 1856, pro-slavery people tried to run William Phillips, who was against slavery, out of town. He killed two pro-slavery unidentified men before he died.

Anthony House on Leavenworth's walking trails
Leading suffragist Susan B. Anthony stayed here with her brother, Daniel Anthony.

Susan B. Anthony

Fittingly, my next stop was at the Anthony House. One hundred years ago, on Aug. 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified. Finally, women could vote. Famed suffragist Susan B. Anthony fought for the amendment during most of her life, although she did not live to see its ratification. She lived in Leavenworth for a time, helping her brother to edit his newspaper. Because of Anthony’s influence, the 19th Amendment was named for her, the Anthony Amendment.

Anthony is one of our 10 noteworthy Kansas women.

Lincoln in Leavenworth
A beardless Abraham Lincoln stands on the Leavenworth Municipal Building’s lawn across the sidewalk from Lady Liberty.

Abraham Lincoln

Another great champion of freedom stopped in Leavenworth in December 1859. Abraham Lincoln’s relative Mark Delahy invited him to speak. His first speech was so popular that Leavenworth asked him to speak again. The speech became famous two months later at the Cooper Union in New York City. The speech vaulted Lincoln into becoming a major Presidential candidate, and then President. Lincoln first spoke at Stockton Hall, then at the Planter’s Hotel. Four years later, John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln’s future assassin, performed at the Stockton.

Hotel barber Charles “Pete” Fisher escaped several kidnapping attempts. His story makes the hotel one of our 14 top Kansas civil rights sites.

William T. Sherman

Before the Civil War, William T. Sherman worked at a Leavenworth law firm. The future Union general had already moved away by the time his future Commander-in-Chief spoke in Leavenworth, across the street from the law office.

Buffalo Bill Cody and Carry Nation

Two historical figures were in Leavenworth at opposite ends of their lives. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody became a world-famous entertainer, but his early life in Leavenworth was difficult. Orphaned at 11, he ran from arrest and became a drover on the Santa Fe Trail. That was the beginning of a very adventurous life. While “Cyclone Carry” Nation would have resented the name, she was an entertainer of another sort. She specialized in chopping up saloons. All the bars closed when she visited Leavenworth in 1901. Therefore, Nation did not chop any saloon. However, as soon as she was safely in her hotel room, the hotel bar opened and did good business from the people who had flocked to see her in action. Ten years later, she died in a Leavenworth sanitarium.

Panoramic view of the Missouri River on Leavenworth walking trails
Panoramic view of the Missouri River at Wayne’s Point, Leavenworth Landing.

Walking Leavenworth’s Three-Mile Creek Trail

The Three-Mile Creek Trail starts at Leavenworth Landing. At the southern end of the park, a cul-de-sac at Wayne’s Point holds a park bench. Definitely stop for a panoramic picture. Then turn away from the Missouri River.

Three-Mile Creek Leavenworth walking trail
Passing under the bridge on Three-Mile Creek Trail.

For a moment at the cul-de-sac, I thought the walkway had ended. Instead, the Three-Mile Creek Trail passes under the railroad tracks. This award-winning trail follows the creek for three-quarters of a mile. It’s beautiful. A fresh breeze came from the creek and trees shaded the walk.

Shopping Downtown Leavenworth

Leavenworth Farmers Market
Shop at the farmers market in Haymarket Square.

The trail ends at Haymarket Square. On summer Wednesdays and Saturdays, shop Leavenworth Farmers Market. Bring home some yummy fresh produce and other homemade goods. After visiting the farmers market, wander around Downtown Leavenworth. I especially enjoyed visiting Queen’s Pantry Teas, Leavenworth Antique Mall, and Military Memorabilia. Shopping done, I headed back north to my hotel, but I had two stops left to go.

Paying respects to Lincoln and becoming a (temporary) angel

Leavenworth also commemorates Lincoln’s visit with a sculpture on the Leavenworth Municipal Building‘s lawn. A miniature Statue of Liberty stands across the sidewalk from Lincoln. I found the placement fitting because Lincoln is one of history’s great liberators. Cross the street to find the perfect Leavenworth selfie, a pair of angel wings painted on the wall.

Honoring African-American heroes on Leavenworth walking trails

The Richard Allen Cultural Center is on the Wayside Tour. It holds a tutoring space and a museum. A bust of Cathey Williams stands outside. She is the only known female Buffalo Soldier. She enlisted as William Cathey. Her true gender remained undiscovered until shortly before she was discharged as disabled.

Cathey Williams' bust
Cathey Williams’ bust on Leavenworth’s Wayside Tour

The museum also houses artifacts from the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The church, founded by people who had escaped slavery, maintained a beacon. The light, visible on the Missouri River’s eastern bank, guided enslaved people to freedom in Kansas. The church basement was an Underground Railroad depot. The church welcomed and fed many people on their journey from slavery to freedom. One of Bethel AME’s early ministers, Hiram R. Revels, became the first African-American U.S. Senator in 1870.

Where to eat while exploring Leavenworth walking trails

Metropolitan Steakhouse is across the road from the Leavenworth federal prison. (The prison is another stop on the Wayside Tour.) The restaurant is well known for its huge chicken-fried steak served with a generous portion of mashed potatoes. Yum!

Mido’s Halal Mediterranean Grill is parked outside Denny’s Produce. A food truck and Mediterranean food are a winning combination. I stood in the rain to buy a gyro in homemade pita bread. Getting wet was worth the wonderful taste experience. My recommendation: Buy your lunch at Mido’s, then finish your meal with fruit or vegetables from Denny’s.

Because I was staying at a TownePlace and had a kitchen, I was able to cook my leftovers on a stove. That was great.

More to explore

Leavenworth is on the Glacial Hills Scenic Byway. I am working on a book about Midwest byways which will feature Leavenworth. Please vote for the book and help launch it.

Learn more about regional tourism

Learn more about destinations in the Midwest, particularly in Kansas and Nebraska. Drive more byways. Leavenworth is one of our 12 best places to visit in Kansas.

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