The Faris Caves lie in central Ellsworth County, Kansas, along the serene Smoky Hill River, a set of three unique, artificially excavated caves known for their historical significance and natural beauty1. These intriguing hand-carved caves, dating back to the 1880s, invite a captivating journey back in time, offering a glimpse into the life and culture of the people who once called this place home.
A Miner’s Refuge
The Faris Caves, each about 12-feet square with 10-foot arched ceilings, were meticulously dug out of the Dakota Sandstone by Charles Griffee, a Coloradan miner. The caves were strategically situated such that fresh spring water flowed through one of them, a feature that was ingeniously used to keep food and supplies cool during the sweltering summer months1.
In 1893, the land and caves changed hands as Griffee sold them to Winfield and William Faris. A house was subsequently constructed nearby, while the caves continued to serve various purposes, such as storage, a spring house, and even a schoolhouse for a brief period1.
Journey to the Caves
Today, an exhilarating hike through the forested area leads visitors to these historic caves. The trail to the caves, situated just off Kanopolis Lake, promises a stunning walk through nature, albeit a bit challenging. Still, the reward of reaching these man-made wonders carved out of natural stone is well worth the effort.
The caves, though musty and often waterlogged nowadays, retain their charm and usefulness. Their cool interiors, courtesy of the stone’s natural insulation, made them perfect as a spring house for the Faris family and as a refuge from the summer heat for others in the past.
A Canvas in Stone
What makes these caves even more intriguing are the countless carvings etched into the soft Dakota Sandstone over the years. Each carving represents a visitor, creating a tangible link to the past that reaches out to every adventurer who makes their way to these caves. The stone’s softness, however, makes it challenging to date these carvings, lending an air of mystery to the place.
Interestingly, the Faris Caves also house Native American petroglyphs, adding another layer to their historical significance. In 1996, a method was proposed to preserve these petroglyphs by treating the soft, porous sandstone with ethyl silicate dissolved in a lightweight ketone carrier. This treatment substantially increased the stone’s compressive strength and freeze-thaw resistance without discoloring it or completely sealing its pores. After successful tests, the petroglyphs at the Faris Caves were treated similarly, ensuring their preservation for future generations.
The Faris Caves stand as a testament to human ingenuity and a symbol of Kansas’ rich history. Whether you are a history nerd buff, a nature enthusiast, or a seasoned hiker, a visit to these caves promises an unforgettable journey into the past. The trails are open from sunrise to sunset and always remember to bring a good pair of shoes and plenty of stamina for the hike2. Come and experience the fascinating Faris Caves – where history and nature intertwine in a remarkable dance of time.