The story of Hays, Kansas is the story of the West: violent, gritty, and gripping. The Wild West was built by such legendary figures as George Custer, Calamity Jane, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Wild Bill Hickok (all of them denizens of Hays City, as it was then called, at one point or another), as well as by ordinary people in search of a better life. Perhaps it was these elements of larger-than-life heroes and villains combined with the determination of settlers to build something enduring that gave Hays – and the West – a certain immortality.

Torn by violence (a monument to which survives in Hays’ Boot Hill cemetery, where gunfighters were buried), ravaged by the elements (Hays was one of the cities of the plains that endured the ecological disaster known as the Dust Bowl) – Hays survived to become an educational and cultural center of Kansas. Today, its history is on display at one of the neatest museums in the West, the Sternberg Museum of Natural History, home to the famous “fish within a fish” fossil and a great deal else besides. And at the old site of Fort Hays, visitors can tour four of the old structures, learning about the history in which the fort played a part as they go.

Worth Checking Out

  • Sternberg Museum of Natural History
  • Fort Hays State Historic Site

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