restricted access Junction City–Fort Riley
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44 d r i v i n g a c r o s s k a n s a s junction city – fort riley 300 Head of the Kaw In a short distance, the interstate crosses the Smoky Hill River. By this point, the river has flowed all the way from Colorado through a shallow valley you will see to the left of I-70 as you drive west. About 2 miles to the right, it joins the Republican River. Together, they form the Kansas River, which you have followed from its mouth in Kansas City to its source here. The explorer Captain John C. Frémont camped near this spot on a trip west in 1843. “The Pathfinder,” as Frémont was nicknamed, reported great numbers of elk, antelope, and friendly Indians in this area. Elk are once again roaming here: a herd has been reestablished at Fort Riley. Several attempts were made to create a town where the Republican and Smoky Hill Rivers join. In 1855, settlers tried to reach this spot by steamboat traveling up the Kansas River, but as mentioned back at Manhattan, they got stuck and decided they had traveled far enough. Junction City was finally established in 1858. Today, looking at the shallow, silty, sandbar-strewn river, it is hard to imagine that steamboats would even attempt the trip from Kansas City. Early residents here called the area the Garden of Eden because the Smoky Hill, Saline, Solomon, and Republican Rivers all come together nearby and because the area matched the description of the garden in the book of Genesis. Junction City is the seat of Geary County, which originally was named Davis County after Jefferson Davis, secretary of war from 1853 to 1857. During the Civil War, residents of Davis County became outraged that while Kansas men were fighting and dying for the North, their county was named after the Confederate president. Twice during the war, legislators tried to get the county name changed but failed. In 1889, long after the war was over, the legislature finally changed the name to honor Kansas’s third territorial governor, John W. Geary. Geary went on to be mayor of San Francisco, where the famous Geary Street is also named for him. 297 Kansas’s Largest Lake Exit 295 will lead you north to Milford Lake, where you’ll find more than 16,000 acres of water surface and 163 miles of shoreline for 45 w e s t b o u n d recreation. The lake was created by damming the Republican River. The primary purpose of the dam is to control flooding downstream on the Republican and Kansas Rivers. Although Kansas is not often thought of as a water recreation state, about twenty-five large reservoirs and dozens of smaller lakes make it one of the top states for sailing, waterskiing, fishing, and other water-based activities. Below the dam are an interesting nature center and a fish hatchery. These facilities are open to the public and offer nature trails, exhibits, and educational tours. 296 Sausage Factory The white factory visible on the right produces all types of smoked sausage and packaged pork products. It is a plant of Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer, and it operates as Armour-Eckrich, a part of the John Morrell Food Group. You have probably purchased an Eckrich or Armour package of sausage produced here. This location for the plant was selected in 1995 after an extensive search and evaluation of locations in more than 1,300 counties across the Midwest. Key factors in selecting Junction City included the local population’s strong work ethic and the availability of capable workers. The four companies mentioned here have a long association with the meat industry. Armour began packing hogs in Chicago in 1867. John Morrell took over leadership of his father’s thriving ham company in England, and by 1864, he had established operations in Ireland and the United States. Peter Eckrich opened a meat market in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1894. Smithfield Foods can be traced back to the opening of the Smithfield Packing Company in 1936 in Smithfield, Virginia, by Joseph Luter and his son Joseph Luter, Jr. Since 1981, Smithfield Foods has acquired some forty companies . Today, it is the leading integrated producer of prepared meat products such as smoked sausage, salami, pepperoni, hot dogs, cold cuts, ham, bacon, and deli meats for retail...