The Falls at Elk Falls Kansas is a simple and natural waterfall, only about 6-10 ft high.
History of The Falls at Elk Falls
In 1875, E. A. Hall and L.J. Johnston constructed a grist and flour mill on the river near the falls, powered by a turbine water wheel. Additionally, the mill provided flour throughout the entire state, grinding wheat from locals and others who shipped it in.
Throughout the years, several dams built along the Elk River, created a water supply for severe droughts. However, one after another, floodwaters destroyed the wooden dams.
Finally, a man by the name of Jo Johansen, a Swede from Minnesota, took over the mill and built the present dam, made of sandstone rocks cemented together, which has withstood the floods of more than a century.
National and State Registers of Historic Places
Constructed 1892-1893, the Elk Falls Pratt Truss Bridge is a wrought iron Pratt truss bridge that spans the Elk River. The Pratt truss is a system of parallel chords and vertical members in compression with diagonal members that slant toward the center in tension. The bridge measures 130 feet long by 16 feet wide and is supported by two limestone abutments built into each bank of the river. Wood decking provides the roadway for the bridge. It was a part of the “Metal Truss Bridges of Kansas Multiple Property Submission” for its architectural significance.
You can see The Falls from the old iron and wood bridge.
Unfortunately, in 1976, the bridge closed due to floodwater damage. Today, the bridge is open to foot traffic only but still is a fun sight to see.
Buy a Bridge Plank
In 2001, four organizations replaced the old, rotting wood deck with new, treated lumber. The Friends of Elk Falls, the Kansas Department of Parks and Wildlife, Americorp, and the Heritage Trust Fun made this restoration possible.
Also, supporters and “Friends,” can “buy a bridge plank” for a donation and receive their names engraved on the bridge deck.
The Falls can be seen at the east end of Montgomery Street, about three blocks east of the main street in Elk Falls.
Today, this small town is called home to just about 100 people and is about 35 miles northwest of Independence, Kansas on U.S. 160. The Falls at Elk Falls, is located at 4th Street and Montgomery Street in Elk Falls, Kansas.
Friends of Elk Falls Association
P.O. Box 115
Elk Falls, Kansas 67345
Check out this article, Old Structures on the Prairie.