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Experience Norton County, Kansas

The top seven reasons why you must come to Norton County, Kansas

Norton County, Kansas, is a destination for all seasons. The county offers hunting, fishing, and boating. It also offers history, car culture, destination dining, and destination shopping. For all these reasons, you have to come to Norton.

Disclaimer: I was hosted on this trip.

mule deer in Norton County
A pair of mule deer await hunters in Norton County, Kansas. (Ansel Blake/US Fish & Wildlife Service)

Let’s hunt in Norton County, Kansas

Let’s start with hunting. If you’re interested in trophies, Norton County is listed six times on the Kansas Top 20 Mule Deer list. Besides deer, Norton County hunting opportunities include upland birds, waterfowl, and turkeys. Kansas has a very active walk-in hunting program, including places in Norton County. Walk-in hunting is also available at the 6,400-acre Norton Wildlife Area, which includes Keith Sebelius Reservoir. This forecast will help you plan your hunting trip. Before you hunt, make sure to purchase a Kansas hunting license.

fishing at Keith Sebelius Lake in Norton County
Anglers try to reel in a prize fish on Keith Sebelius Reservoir.

Let’s fish in Norton County, Kansas

Fishing is good on Keith Sebelius Reservoir. The fishing is so good that Bassmaster Magazine named the lake as one of the nation’s Top 100 in 2012. The 2,304-acre reservoir has not only been good for bass fishing. It’s been good for saugeye fishing as well. The state record saugeye, 9 pounds, 13 ounces, was caught here. (A saugeye is a cross between a walleye and a sauger.) East Leota Cove is a hotspot for saugeye and walleye, but the reservoir also offers wiper, crappie, and catfish.

If you need more information about what to fish for, Kansas helpfully provides fish forecasts. The state updates them regularly in season. To check the lake’s condition, check the Bureau of Reclamation’s live lake data. Before you pull out your rod and reel, make sure to buy a fishing license and to register your boat.

Adobe House and windmill in Prairie Dog State Park, Norton County
Step back into history at the park’s 1890s Adobe House and a one-room schoolhouse.

Let’s play at Prairie Dog State Park in Norton County, Kansas

Boats are not solely fishing platforms at Prairie Dog State Park. Pull out your water skis and your windsurfing board and skim across the water. Or swim in the water at the swimming beach. Stay in the park in your RV, reserve one of the park’s cabins, or set up a tent. If you choose a cabin, remember to bring your bedding. Camping fees are on top of regular park entry fees.

If you prefer land to water, head to the 1.5-mile Steve Mathis Nature Trail. View the prairie dog town and enjoy lake views. Visit the historic structures in the park. Take time to view wildlife, including pheasants, Canada geese, wild turkeys, badgers, mule deer, and whitetail deer.

Northwest Kansas historic trails
The Leavenworth & Pikes Peak Express route through Northwest Kansas

Let’s go back in time and space in Norton County, Kansas

Prairie Dog State Park includes the Adobe House and schoolhouse in the list of its attractions, but those buildings are not the sole historical learning opportunities in Norton County.

Station 15 in Norton County
Passing the time with a friendly game of poker in Station 15 in Norton County

Let’s meet Western legends at Station 15 in Norton County, Kansas

The reconstructed Leavenworth & Pikes Peak Express Station 15 stands in Norton’s Water Tower Park at the Jones St. and W. Highway 36 intersection. On May 24, 1859, Station 15, halfway between Leavenworth and Denver, hosted a gathering of some very influential figures. Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York Tribune, always wore a white linen coat. The coat became his trademark, earning him the nickname “Old White Coat“. (Can you think of anything more impractical to wear during a two-week trip on a dusty stagecoach?) Greeley is better known for the quote, “Go West, young man, and grow up with the country.” The actual person who said the quote initially is disputed.

Greeley was traveling with one of his reporters, Albert Deane Richardson. Pat Garrett, who would later be famous for killing Billy the Kid, was a stagecoach driver. Judge Roy Bean, later famous as the Law West of the Pecos, was escorting a young woman. The stationmaster was a Cincinnati attorney and his wife had been an actress on the Bowery in New York City.

All these figures, plus Tiberico Vasquez, a Californio (native-born, Spanish-speaking Californians) and bandit, and Wild Bill Hickok, gunfighter and lawman, are portrayed as papier-mache sculptures in Station 15’s replica. Outside the station, press a button to hear more about the station’s story. The original station stood about 5 miles southwest of Norton on Prairie Dog Creek.

Frederic Remington's Wicked Pony
Detail of Frederic Remington’s sculpture “Wicked Pony” on the Norton Public Library grounds.

Let’s visit Frederic Remington

With such a rich cast of famous Western characters coming through, Norton is a fitting hub for Frederic Remington’s admirers to visit. Remington was one of the nation’s foremost Western artists. From Station 15, head east on Highway 36 to State Street and turn south to the Norton Public Library at 1 Washington Square.

Two large Remington sculptures stand on the library’s grounds, “Wicked Pony” and “Mountain Man“. See more artworks inside the library in the art gallery and display cases. A collection of horse sculptures in the North Display Case fits well with the Remingtons outside.

To see more Remingtons, continue south on State, then turn west on Main to The First State Bank of Norton. A big Remington sculpture, “Rattlesnake“, dominates the front window. During bank hours, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, enjoy a closer look by entering the lobby. After enjoying the large sculpture, walk around the bank to see smaller Remingtons.

Let’s meet those who ran for President — and lost

The They Also Ran” Gallery is upstairs in the bank’s mezzanine. Bank President William Walter Rouse was very interested in history and in promoting Norton County. When he read Irving Stone’s “They Also Ran: The Story of the Men Who Were Defeated for the Presidency“, he began collecting the losing candidates’ pictures and information.

Rouse was especially interested because Horace Greeley was one of the men who had run for President and lost. Greeley ran on the Democratic ticket and lost to Ulysses Grant in 1872. He died shortly after the election before the electoral college could vote. Therefore, the college split his votes between other candidates. (Rouse was also instrumental in building Station 15.)

"They Also Ran" Gallery in First State Bank
Lee Ann Shearer (left) is the curator of the “They Also Ran” Gallery in Norton, preserving the memory of those who ran for President — and lost. Bob Dole is left of the door behind Shearer.
John C. Fremont
John C. Fremont

The gallery also includes another famous person who visited Norton County, John C. Frémont. “The Pathfinder” explored much of the Western United States, including Norton County. His second expedition came through Norton County in 1843. They followed a creek that bisected numerous prairie dog towns; therefore, they named it Prairie Dog Creek. Because of that tie, gallery Curator Lee Ann Shearer said Fremont is one of her favorites. Frémont was the first Republican candidate and lost to Democrat James Buchanan in 1856.

U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kansas, is another favorite. Dole represented Norton County as a Representative before becoming a Senator. He lost to Democrat Bill Clinton in 1996.

Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee, became the first woman inducted into the gallery on Jan. 20, 2017. She lost to Republican Donald Trump.

Fremont Expedition map showing Norton County
Fremont Expedition map showing Norton County

Let’s visit the meteorites that rained down

More than one ton of meteorites fell on Norton County on Feb. 18, 1948. Some of the meteorite chunks are housed at the Norton County Historical Museum, 105 E. Lincoln St. The meteorites are a rare type of meteorite called an aubrite. This mineral is white in Norton County, as opposed to the more normal green to brown because it contains so little iron. Aubrites … contain minerals [that are] not found, or [are] rare, on Earth,” Arizona State’s Center for Meteorite Studies noted. The meteorite comes from asteroid 3103 Eger, the center said. The asteroid is only 1.5 kilometers (not quite a mile) in diameter.

The museum also features the Silvaire Club exhibit. The Silvaire Club hosted numerous big bands in the 1940s and ’50s. Listen to their recordings and see memorabilia from one of the great eras of American music. Gun enthusiasts will enjoy learning about the Norton BB Club, which has won numerous championships over the years.

The museum is open from 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays or by appointment. The museum is closed during the winter.

Let’s enjoy car culture

Norton County is a champion of car culture. With a toy car museum, a neon-bedecked theater, and restored vintage gas stations, car lovers will rejoice in Norton County. So start up your car and make the trip!


Las Canteras Mexican Restaurant
Las Canteras Mexican Restaurant captures the feel of eating on a relaxed plaza. (Las Canteras Mexican Restaurant)

Let’s eat in Norton County, Kansas

Las Canteras Mexican Restaurant

Las Canteras Mexican Restaurant at 203 W. Washington is not just a Mexican restaurant. It is a delightful eating experience. When you walk into Las Canteras, be prepared to step into a plaza in Mexico. The decor divides the building into various nooks that feel like a guest has gone south of the border. And the food is delectable. I intended to eat only part of my smothered burrito. I carefully cut it in half, intending to place the rest into a take-home box. Instead, I ate every bit. I couldn’t stop myself. And, oh, those margaritas! You must try one!

The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Destination Kitchen
Wood-fired pizza
Wood-fired pizza at Destination Kitchen

I admit it; I am a pizza snob. Pizza snobs like me will feel like they have come home at Norton’s Destination Kitchen, 115 W. Main. They have a wood-fired pizza oven in the back. Need I say more? Pizza paradise is cooked in a brick wood-fired oven. The crisp crust with a hint of wood smoke complements every pizza topping. At lunch, we shared one of their incredible pizzas. I added a sandwich. I’m not much into eating turkey, except at Thanksgiving. But I recommend their green turkey sandwich. Green apple slices, Brie cheese, and raspberry honey mustard make boring turkey into an exceptional taste sensation. So delicious.

Destination Kitchen serves food from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Don’t miss out.

Let’s go shopping

Destination Kitchen is not only a dining destination. It’s also a shopping destination. If cooking and baking are your passion, Destination Kitchen is The. Place. To. Shop. Any cook or chef will find something great to take home. Simply walking around the store will inspire you to greater heights of culinary excellence. The store is open to shoppers from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.

Sewing machine tractor and case
A Brother sewing machine turned into a toy tractor with a Singer machine case.
Santa wall hanging and quilt in Stitch Up A Storm
A sewing machine, sewing book, a quilt and Santa at Stitch Up A Storm in Norton.

Walk through Destination Kitchen’s side door to enter Stitch Up A Storm, a quilt shop extraordinaire at 113 W. Main St. Their merchandising skill is fabulous. If you enjoy textile crafts, you’ll adore this store. Even if textiles are not your thing, stop in to admire their merchandising flair. The store is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily except Sundays.

A cup of chai
A cup of chai at Java in Norton

Head into the Heaton Building, 112 S. Kansas Ave., for a hand-crafted cup of coffee at Java Coffee Shop. The shop is open from 7 to 11 a.m. Mondays-Fridays.

Emoji dolls
Emoji dolls at The Nest

After relaxing with your morning jolt of joy, head to The Nest next door at 112 S. Kansas Suite 204. The Nest is a fascinating mix of clothing, shoes, toys, sporting goods, and pet supplies. Snuggle into The Nest from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays.

I was hosted on this trip, but, as always, all opinions are my own.

Visit nearby Oberlin. Learn more about Kansas and Northwest Kansas.



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