Kansas: Underground Salt Museum
Thank you, Emily, for your great note: “Is there anything interesting to do or see in Kansas?” Yes, there are lots of things to see and people to meet. Check out my archived column, Space Adventures for Every Age about the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, Kansas. They offer a two day Adult Astronaut Adventure training program; Elderhostel Astronaut Training: week-long program, and Future Astronaut Training among many other programs. That’s certainly worth a trip to Kansas.
As long as you’re there, don’t miss visiting the Underground Salt Museum. Bring along your ticket stub from visiting the Space Center and you’ll get a discount. Travel 650 feet below ground to visit a museum in a working salt mine. The museum is built in a mined out area and hard hats are required. The interior spaces are large, and a constant 68 degree temperature, with low humidity, all year. In fact, because of the ideal climate conditions and depth, without risk of flood, tornadoes, and other natural disasters, there is a vault company that shares the mine space and many clients ship valuables to be stored there. They also rent out the large areas for weddings and events.
Everything about it is large, including the hallways visitors walk through. Your tour group will descend the equivalent of 65 stories into the earth, about 700 feet down in a very dark, double-decker elevator, which takes only one minute and 15 seconds. After an electric-powered tram tour, dubbed “The Dark Ride,” you can explore the exhibits on your own. The Museum has developed one hundred square feet of the mine, one huge room supported by columns of un-mined salt. You will see old dynamite cases, a sinkhole formed by water which melts the salt, photographs and videos, and vintage mining equipment. The working part of the mine is located several miles from the Museum, but don’t worry, there is no daytime blasting. The Hutchinson Salt company excavates five hundred thousand tons of rock salt each year.
They don’t mine that far but the salt deposits extend under many states, from Missouri to New Mexico. “Before working here,” says tour leader Layla, “I didn’t realize we had that much salt under the ground, and its thicker in some places than others. When we think of salt on the table, that’s a very small part of where and how salt is used.”
Another neat thing is the archives. The humidity and temperature are so constant in the salt mine, they store lots of documents and papers that they don’t want to erode. Hollywood has costumes there for safe keeping, like the original batman costume. There are x-rays and medical records that don’t decay and an original newspaper from the time of Lincoln’s presidency that still hasn’t yellowed at all.
The city of Hutchinson, nicknamed Salt City, is also home to the Dillon Nature Center , the Hutchinson Zoo, and many other attractions along with opportunities to volunteer locally. If you plan your trip in September, be sure to visit during the Kansas State Fair, the largest event in Kansas. For more information, check out the Hutchinson Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Travel, learn and meet the locals ─ that’s what Immersion and Volunteer Travel are all about. See you in Kansas! Let us know about your trip!