Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Under the Kansas Prairie

650 feet under the earth surface around Hutchinson Kansas lies an amazing vista of salt. Yes, I said salt. the Kansas Underground Salt Museum is located underground in 100,000 square feet of space unlike anything I had ever seen before. A quick and dark elevator ride takes you to the mine floor. The temperature stays a comfortable 68 degrees in this mine. Trams with tour guides take you through some of the mine chambers where you are literally surrounded by salt. You will experience total darkness when the lights go off, but you can trust the guides to take good care of you. Lonnie and Larry, our tour guides are retired salt mine workers and really know their way around. This is the only museum of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. Hard hats and small respirators are required for all visitors during the tour.

The museum itself hosts everything from Dorothy II of the movie "Twister" fame to original Superman and Batman costumes. I was surprised to find Dorothy there as previous to this trip I thought the Wakita OK museum was the only place to see her. The mines are also used for storage and Kansas public records such as birth, marriage and death certificates are kept there.

Of course everyone wants to take some salt home and there is always a small pile available and they even provide the bags!

Plan to spend a couple hours on the tour; after you take the tram ride you can wander around and see old mining equipment on display and view the history of a salt mine that was formed about 250 MILLION years ago. The gift shop has among other things, a selection of t-shirts and salt lamps.

The general admission rates are $8.50 for children and $13.50 for over 13 to adult, making this an affordable family trip.

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