Issue Preview ~ Summer 2004
"Well" worth a visit
By Lynne Hewes
Great things often come in small packages for the adventurous summer tourist in Kansas. One of those great things, fairly well hidden from the view of most passersby, is a serendipitous spot of nature called St. Jacob's Well.
Located approximately 15 miles south of Minneola on U.S. Highway 283, you'll find a Kansas historical marker describing the Big Basin and Little Basin area there and a pool of water known as St. Jacob's Well.
According to the marker, the valley-like area was created thousands of years ago when "massive gypsum and salt formations several hundred feet below the surface" of the earth dissolved and collapsed. The area looks almost bowl-shaped today.
Bison, or buffalo, have been reintroduced to the almost 2,000-acre prairie preserve, and intrepid tourists are warned not to leave the safety of their cars when the bison are near the graveled road.
The spring-fed pool called St. Jacob's Well lies approximately 1.7 miles from the highway entrance, and is surrounded by large cottonwood trees and limestone rock. A path leads down to the serene pool, which is said to have been used by roving Native Americans as well as drovers bringing cattle from Texas up to the Kansas railroads in the late 1800s. Legend has it that the pool, which geologists believe to be about 60 feet deep, has never gone dry, even during the harsh days of the "Dirty 30s."
Today, the bison are fenced away from the pool, and birds and small animals come there for water. Tourists who elect to take the pathway down to the pool are cautioned about poison ivy growing near its edges.
In spite of taking a couple of precautions (don't pet the buffalo and don't touch those three-leafed plants), a side trip off Highway 283 to explore this scenic prairie area is "well" worth it.