Though only the sand stone buildings have survived the century since Fort Larned, Kansas was abandoned by the U.S. Army, many more structures could be found and much activity took place here during the days it served as a military post on the wild frontier of the "Great American Desert." You may visit some of the sites of these lost structures and learn more of what went on here by following the walking trail which begins just east of the post hospital building. The trail is one mile long and can be covered at a leisurely pace in half-an-hour. Much of the trail follows atop a modern flood-control dike. A copy of this tour can be picked up in the visitor center, refer to the map above for a better understanding of the locations for this internet tour. For their safety children should not be allowed near the river.
The buildings, relics, and other historical and natural objects found at Fort Larned are for all to enjoy. Federal law prohibits removing, disturbing or injuring any of them We ask for your cooperation on this matter.
Old Barracks -- The area behind the present sandstone barracks was the site of the first adobe barracks. Quarters for the laundresses, women hired by the army to do the soldiers' laundry, were located just behind them. The remains of the old adobe hospital in use until 1871, and the hospital steward's quarters, are now covered by the dike.
Cemetery -- The first post cemetery was located here in the center of the grassy flat. In 1869, the cemetery was relocated to a new site northwest of the fort. Both soldiers and civilians were buried here. Following the fort's abandonment, sixty-six military bodies were moved and reinterred in the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery.
Oxbow -- The wooded depression surrounding you was once part of the Pawnee River. Its appearance now is similar to that of the military period except at that time it formed a complete loop. Though often dry, the army relied on the oxbow as a defensive barrier for the eastern side of the fort. The "island" formed by the oxbow had various uses including the first cemetery site, wood piles, and hay stacks for the horses and for mattress ticking.
Stables and Corral -- The stable was a small sod structure within the 150' by 200' picket post corral. During the seven years Fort Larned served as an Indian Agency, this was the probable distribution area for the tribes' annuities.
Mail Station -- Originally established to protect the mail stage coaches along the Santa Fe Trail, the fort became, in effect, the first post office in this area. The fort's commander, however, wrote in 1869, "Only one mail per week arrives and departs this post."
Beef Corral -- A 100' by 180' post and rail enclosure for cattle was constructed near the river. When available, the soldiers' rations included an issuance of 20 ounces of fresh beef per day. Beef was also part of the allotment supplied to the local tribes during the time the fort serves as an Indian Agency.
Santa Fe Trail -- Long lumbering wagon trains approached Fort Larned from both sides of the Pawnee. Crossing the river four miles east near the present state hospital (the water tower located on the hill in the distance), one route followed the approximate service road you are now on. Near the base of the hill (known as Jenkins or Lookout Hill) is the site of Camp on the Pawnee Fork. Established in 1859 this temporary encampment of troops sent to protect the mail coaches was moved the following year to this location and renamed "Fort Larned" Just to the left of the hill is the site of one of the sandstone out croppings from which stone was quarried for the construction of the nine military buildings.
Native Prairie Grasses -- Vegetation at Fort Larned consists primarily of mixed prairie grasses. Located between the tall-grass areas in the east and the mid/short-grass country tot he west, the tall bluestem, Indian, grama and wheat grasses blend with the short buffalo grasses. The variety of prairie wild flowers include sunflower, purple prairie clover, golden rod, gay feather, surf pea, and poppymallow.
Native trees found along the water courses include willow, cottonwood, silver maple, boxelder, oak, American elm, honey locust, black walnut and ash.
Blockhouse and Cavalry Stables -- A six-sided sandstone blockhouse was constructed on the site in 1864. Fitted with two tiers of loop holes, the structure was intended for defense against Indian attacks. In later years it served as the fort's guardhouse. To your left were the wooden cavalry stables. The structure was mysteriously burned a year after its construction, destroying 39 horses and much cavalry horse equipment.
Early Officers' Quarters -- Until the present stone quarters were constructed in 1867, company officers resided in a 136' by 19' adobe building located on a site in the grassy area. It was demolished in the late 1860s upon completion of the stone quarters.
New Sutler's Store -- Important to any frontier military post, merchants called post sutlers or traders, were licensed by the Army to sell goods. Serving as a restaurant, general store, and recreation hall, the sutler's comples served all military residents and visitors to the fort. This second sutler's store of wood framing, also had a billiard room and a single lane bowling alley.
Old Sutler's Store -- The sturdy sandstone store which stood on this site was the first permanent structure erected at Fort Larned. Food items, cooking utensils, tobacco, soap, cloth, clothing, and numerous personal items lined the sutler's well-stocked shelves.
Ice House -- An earthen shingle-roofed structure was dug into the steep river bank to store the river ice which was cut during the winter for summertime use by fort residents.
Dugout -- The grassy depression in the river bank marks a caved in dugout. Prior to the construction of the stone barracks in 1867, many of the soldiers lived in earthen shelters dug into the side of the steep riverbank.
Adjutant's Office -- A small frame structure located here at the end of "Officers' Row" served as post headquarters. From the office the post commander and his staff directed the daily operations of the fort.
When Fort Larned was active, larger animals common to the area included buffalo, wolves, antelope, coyotes, and deer. Today, except for an occasional coyote, only the mule and white-tailed deer are seen. Many small animals may be seen including fox squirrels, thirteen-lined ground squirrels, prairie dogs, gophers, beaver, skunks, raccoons, oppsoums, muskrat, weasel and badger. Bull snakes, measuring up to 6' are frequently found in the fort area. Other non-poisonous reptiles seen here are blue racers, hog-nosed and garter snakes.
Birds are plentiful at Fort Larned. Because of its mid-continent location, both eastern and western species may be seen. Some of the birds you may encounter along this trail are: Red-Tailed Hawk -- Swainson's Hawk -- Marsh Hawk -- Great Horned Owl -- Screech Owl -- Barn Owl -- Burrowing Owl -- Bald Eagle -- Golden Eagle -- American Coot -- Killdeer -- Mourning Dove -- Common Nighthawk -- Chimney Swift -- Yellow-Shafted Flicker -- Red-Headed Woodpecker -- Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher -- Eastern Kingbird -- Western Kingbird -- Carolina Chichadee -- Mockingbird -- Ring-Necked Pheasant - Brown Thrasher -- Robin -- Eastern Bluebird -- Bobwhite -- Black-Billed Magpie -- Western Meadowlark -- Red-Winged Blackbird -- Common Grackle -- Orchard Oriole -- Baltimore Oriole -- Cardinal -- Lark Bunting -- Horned Lark -- Barn Swallow -- Common Crow -- Blue Jay -- Dickcissel.
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