Baxter Springs and the
Spring River, Kansas

J.S. and S.W. Aber


Baxter Springs is located in southeastern Kansas just one mile from the border with Oklahoma. The city is situated on the upland west of the Spring River valley, which marks the boundary between the Ozark Plateau to the east and the Cherokee Lowlands to the west. This is one of the lowest points in Kansas; the Spring River flows into Oklahoma below 780 feet elevation. Baxter Springs is also on the original Route 66 highway that crossed the southeastern corner of the state.

Rainbow-curve bridge on Route 66 over Brush Creek, a tributary of the Spring River, approximately 3 miles north of Baxter Springs. Constructed in 1923, it is the only remaining Marsh Arch Bridge on Route 66. Original two-way, the bridge is now one-way; the width between arches is only 19 feet.

Baxter Springs is located on the historic military road that connected Fort Leavenworth (KS) to Fort Gibson (OK). These forts were established in the 1820s, and Fort Scott (KS) was added in 1842. The functions of these forts were to keep the peace between Indian Nations, to aid in Indian removals from the eastern United States, and to protect western trails and settlers.

Baxter Springs was the site of Fort Blair, a small garrison built during the Civil War to guard the military road and western frontier. It saw little action until October 4, 1863, when William Quantrill and about 400 Rebel guerillas attacked. Greatly outnumbered Union forces fought off Quantrill's band, who then moved southward along the Spring River.

KAP at Baxter Springs

We visited Baxter Springs in mid-April 2021 in connection with geological field work in the vicinity. Southeastern Kansas is generally not favorable for kite aerial photography (KAP), because of abundant tree cover and often light wind and cloudy sky. We did find a suitable open field in the Kiwanis Park next to the Spring River on the eastern edge of the city.

A northeasterly breeze at 8-12 mph was just enough to lift our large rokkaku, and we flew both our Nikon GPS radio-controlled rig and the Sony Alpha autoKAP rig. Sunny sky when we arrived gave way gradually during the afternoon to high, thin clouds and then mostly cloudy conditions during our KAP session. This had the effects of soft lighting and vague shadows on the ground, which are evident in some of the images.

KAP of Spring River and Baxter Springs
Left: view northward over the Spring River with an abandoned railroad bridge. Right: closer view with kite flyers at bottom next to a curious circular pattern in the grass.
Views toward the east (left) and southeast (right) over the Spring River and US 166 highway. River flow from left to right. Note the low-water dam just below the highway bridge and pools of the water-treatment facility behind the river.
Views toward the southwest (left) and northwest (right) with the Kiwanis Park in the foreground and city of Baxter Springs on higher ground behind.

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All text and images © by the authors (2021).