Elk County The Falls at Elk Falls, Kansas

Elk Falls, Kansas


Founded: 1870
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
Elk Falls is located in southern Elk County [EK] between the Elk River and Wildcat Creek.  The town's site at the falls of the Elk is as pretty as any in Kansas, but the natural beauty does not explain all of the fascination outsiders have for the town:

We Welcome You to the
"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!

The delights of Elk Falls are subtle and often elusive.  Many folks are here and gone before Elk Falls has a chance to seep into their consciousness.  Slow down.  Feel the soothing tranquility of the Falls.  Sit a spell.  Relax a bit.  Savor every sight, every sound.  Breathe deep.  Visit with a new friend.

Experiencing Elk Falls takes a little doing, but we think you'll find it well worth the effort.  Enjoy.

"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.

History

Shortly 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.

Schools

USD 282 - West Elk Schools serves Howard, Moline, & Elk Falls
West Elk High School   S. Highway 99, Howard / (620) 374-2147
If 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.

Places to visit in Elk Falls

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

Places to stay in, or close to, Elk Falls

Newspaper

More information about Elk Falls

References

The WPA Guide to 1930s Kansas tour 6a (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1984) - reprint

Get back on US 160, explore Elk County or visit other Kansas Cities & Towns

Last updated on December 12, 2008 · towns@kslib.info
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