Population: 122 (1990) 151 (1980)
Latitude: 37° 22' 2" N
Longitude: 96° 11' 18" W
Elevation: 938 feet
ZIP code: 67345 - Area Code 620
School District: USD 282
"World's largest living ghost town... in the heart of the Kansas Ozarks"
Elk Falls is not your typical tourist destination! To say that we're off the beaten path is probably an understatement. But what you see is not all you get! Remember, this is a living ghost town - much of what used to be here is gone, but we ain't dead yet!
"Elk Falls is a state of mind... There's nothing like it anywhere."
From Exploring Kansas by Mil Penner.
"Towns that reinvent themselves are two a penny in America. But if a prize were to be awarded for the bravest effort, it should probably go to Elk Falls, Kansas. This tiny place sits on a wooded bend in the road not far from the Oklahoma border. . . ."
The Economist, London, August 19, 1995
"The hamlet of Elk Falls lies nestled against the Elk River in the broken, rocky hills of southeast Kansas. All that's left of the once-busy grist mill that gave the town its name is the wooden auger that hangs on the wall of the Cape Cod Cafe and Bakery and the mill stones that decorate the yard of a rancher in nearby Howard.
Not a sign remains of the railhead that brought settlers and prosperity to the community at the turn of the century. Elk Falls, a bustling community of 299 in 1930 is now home to only 91."
The Wichita Eagle, Wichita, October 8, 1995
If you too fall in love with the place, the citizens will be happy (for a small fee) to make you an honorary citizen as long as you promise NOT to move there.
HistoryShortly after it was settled in 1871, Elk Falls became the temporary seat of Howard County. Elections in 1872 and 1873 failed to establish a clear choice between Elk Falls, Peru, Boston, Longton, and Howard. After the questionable election of 1873, citizens of Boston raided Elk Falls and took the county records and furnishings. The records were hidden in Cowley County and Boston posted armed guards to keep out the Howard County sheriff.
The bitterness became academic when Elk County was formed in 1875. Elk Falls and Boston were almost on the boundary of the two counties, Elk and Chautauqua, created when Howard County was divided. Howard was centrally located in the new county and was the logical choice for county seat. The Board of Agriculture figures for 1927 show the long-term effects: Howard had a population of 1,275, Elk Falls was down to 269, and Boston was not listed.
Prudence Crandall, famous pioneer educator, is buried in Elk Falls Cemetary.
SchoolsIf you are planning a formal visit to (instead of just wandering into) Elk Falls, it is wise to call ahead to any of the establishments you definitely want to visit. The "open" times given here may change - Elk Falls time can differ from other areas of the country. No, it isn't Brigadoon - though you might wonder sometimes.
- USD 282 - West Elk Schools serves Howard, Moline, & Elk Falls
- West Elk High School S. Highway 99, Howard / (620) 374-2147
Places to visit in Elk Falls
- The beauty of the dam and falls at Elk Falls can be viewed "up close" or from an antique iron bridge built in 1892.
- Visit the Prudence Crandall memorials on the west side of town.
- Tour the Keefe Pioneer Homestead, a 19th century home and farmstead. - (620) 374-2438 by appointment
- You can often see pottery "in the making" at Elk Falls Pottery, located a block east and two blocks south of "downtown."
- For old friends of Elk Falls, we are sorry to report that Barry McGuire's Village Variety Theater has closed. The gardens, while still sporting some perennials, are also no longer being attended to.
- Across the street from the old gardens notice the simple white frame church. The church was founded in 1871.
- Look at the secret garden behind the Sherman House. It's beautiful.
A Special Event
- Elk Falls Annual Open House - Friday and Saturday before Thanksgiving.
Demonstrations, walking tours, flea market, craftsmen, good food, and regular attractions are all part of this two-day event. Elk Falls Pottery prepares for this weekend with an extensive selection of stoneware and other gifts.
You won't want to miss the Outhouse Tour and Contest (It's a gas!)
Places to eat in Elk Falls
- Elk Falls Village Cafe (620) 329-4300
Places to shop in Elk Falls
- Crookedpost Ranch (620) 329_4385 (Kelly) or (620) 846_7466 (Mike)
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Rt.1, Box 52, Elk Falls, Kansas 67345
Horses everyone can afford and anybody would be proud to ride.
- Elk Falls Pottery (620) 329-4425
Award winning stoneware and earthenware
Open Monday thru Saturday (call ahead to be sure)
Places to stay in, or close to, Elk Falls
- The Sherman House Guest House (620) 329-4425
PO Box 15, Elk Falls, KS 67345
is an historic 1879 railroad hotel beautifully restored.
- The Silver Bell Motel (620) 642-6145
located 6 miles east of Elk Falls in nearby Longton - is nicely maintained.
- Cattle Baron Inn Bed & Breakfast (620) 374-2503
is a beautiful weekend Bed and Breakfast located 12 miles north of Elk Falls in Howard
More information about Elk Falls
- Friends of Elk Falls Association (620) 329-4440 or 4425
P. O. Box 115, Elk Falls, KS 67345
ReferencesThe WPA Guide to 1930s Kansas tour 6a (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1984) - reprint
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