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Travels in the Heartland: Hanging out with black squirrels and more in Marysville, Kansas

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Posted at 4:23 PM, Aug 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-26 18:07:15-04

MARYSVILLE, Kan. (The Walking Tourists) — Imagine a city where squirrels rule. Where they're the bosses.

In our family, we're squirrel fans. There are feeders for squirrels. I've fed squirrels peanuts by hand. So, the opportunity to visit Marysville, Kansas, less than two hours south of Omaha, was natural. But, if you're not a squirrel fan, the town has other attractions that warrant a visit.

Marysville is home to the Black Squirrel. The cute little rodent owns the city. It's even illegal to purposely harm them, with jail time and fines possible. They roam the city. But, don't fear them; they are friendly toward people as they've grown used to human encounters.

But, if living, breathing squirrels aren't your thing, perhaps touring the town's black squirrel sculptures sounds better. Actually, with more 30 sculptures, finding the black squirrel sculptures makes for a fun outing. A map of all the squirrels can be found here.

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Patriot Squirrel

Scattered around the city, the sculptures are decorated with themes. One of my favorites was a patriotic squirrel at the base of a flagpole at the National Guard armory. With an eagle painted on its side, the squirrel statue is beautiful with its colors.

Another favorite of ours was a squirrel designed to represent the area's healthcare workers, complete with a face mask. Of course, there’s a Pony Express squirrel, since the city also prides itself on being the first stop on the Pony Express route.

Some sculptures represent businesses, as well as supporting healthcare workers, military, and other occupations. Artists sought to create unique creatures. We're confident you'll find a favorite squirrel.

Pony Express Barn and Museum

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Pony Express Barn and Museum

While the Pony Express delivered mail for about 18 months, it left a major impact on America's West. Marysville was the first stop along the Pony Express route from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California.

Housed in a stone barn, which was also used as a blacksmith business, the Marysville stop featured horses and a place for the riders to rest.

Today, the barn is part of the Pony Express Barn and Museum. Showcasing the story of the Pony Express, the museum also features exhibits on wagon trails that came through the area, as well as early life in the northwest Kansas town. You'll find wagons, a stagecoach and a steam engine, as well as displays relating to Native Americans and Spanish expeditions.

Koester House Museum and Gardens

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Koester House Museum and Gardens

Charles Koester arrived in Marysville in 1876. After marrying, he bought a new home for he and his wife, Sara. They expanded the house a few times over the years, creating today'sKoester House Museum and Gardens. Located near downtown, off Highway 36, the house includes original family furnishings. The gardens feature trees, flowers and bushes planted by Koester. The garden showcases 12 white bronze sculptures on the grounds.

Marshall County Historic Courthouse Museum

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Marshall County Historic Courthouse Museum

For about 90 years,Marshall County Courthouse served as the hub of county government business. After building a new courthouse in the late 1970s, the 1891 Romanesque Revival red sandstone building (also built using limestone and brick) was donated for historical purposes. With more than 20 rooms featuring local history exhibits, you can sit in a 19th-century courtroom or investigate pieces of community history over the decades.

Alcove Spring Historic Park

Euro-Americans heading west crossed the Big Blue River near Marysville; however, high waters often delayed crossings. Alcove Spring is considered one of the most significant places along Kansas' portion of the Oregon Trail, after the Donner-Reed party had to spend five days there in 1846 waiting for the water to subside. Today, Alcove Spring Historic Park — named to the National Register of Historic Places — includes a .25-mile trail as part of its 223 acres. Alcove Spring's waterfall drops about 12 feet to the ground.

Blue River Rail Trail

Running along the Big Blue River, the 11.5-miletrail traverses wooded areas, farm fields, offering views of the river and wildlife. With crushed stone, it is excellent for walkers, joggers and bicyclists.

Public art

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Pony Express statue

Where to begin? A photo with the "Love from Marysville" mural is a must. A few feet away, stands the giant Pony Express statue. Nearby, you’ll find the Lifetiles Murals, which offer a unique view of art in motion. Stand in front of one of the three murals highlighting Marysville history. As you move to your right, the figure starts moving, such as a Pony Express rider on his horse galloping away. Stop by the public library for its mural promoting reading with a series of classic books on the wall.

Historic Trails Park

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Eight historic trails convene near the Big Blue River outside of town, including the Oregon Trail, Overland Trail, Pony Express route, Military Trail, Mormon Trail, Otoe-Missouria Trail, St. Joseph-California Trail and Pike’s Peak-California Trail. The Historic Trails Park features signs showcasing each trail's route through the area. You can also climb aboard a western ferry used to transport wagons and supplies across the river.

Whether you choose to spend the day in Marysville or make a weekend of exploring the town and its historical trails, there are plenty of options regardingaccommodations andrestaurants. As you walk around town, don’t worry about the squirrels, they’re just looking for nuts.

To learn more about Tim and Lisa Trudell — The Walking Tourists — or read their other stories, please visit Travels in the Heartland.

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