The “Ghost Town Tour” takes riders to three very interesting communities. The route begins at Riverfront Park in Iola, and heads north and then west to the unincorporated community of Geneva, which was founded in 1857 with expectations that the town would prosper and build a non-sectarian college and academy. It was not to be. The town peaked at a population of about 100, and lost its post office in 1942. Today, only a few houses remain. But there is a neatly-kept cemetery containing headstones going back to the town’s founding. Of particular interest is the grave of John Rhees, who traveled to Baja California and South America, and the stone of Winfred, Minnie, and Pearl Spencer, which is an excellent example of the ornate Woodsman-style headstones of over a century ago.
From Geneva Cemetery, the route rolls west to Neosho Falls, which once had a population of over 1,200, but was devastated by a 1951 flood from the Neosho River, and never recovered. Today, it is the most famous ghost town in Kansas, and the subject of the 1988 Kansas concept album In the Spirit of Things. Explore Riverside Park, which President Rutherford B. Hayes visited in 1879, along with about 30,000 other people. View the town’s namesake falls, check out the abandoned buildings and school (private property), and visit the friendly Oasis Tavern, the one and only retail business in town. See also: A Town One Might Only Imagine.
The route then rolls east past the Iola Townshop cemetery, on a section of Old US-54 highway, built in the 1920s. You’ll then hook up with modern US-54, with its wide smooth shoulder, which will take you over the Neosho River and back into Iola.
Note: This route is mostly paved, but does have a few short gravel sections. There are food/drink options in Neosho Falls and Piqua, but be sure to bring plenty of water.
If you use a GPS cyclocomputer or a smartphone app that can handle GPX files, you can download the GPS Track to your computer, then upload it to your device. Most devices will provide turn-by-turn directions to allow you to easily follow the route without worrying about missing turns or getting lost.
If you’d prefer a route that’s mostly gravel, choose the Ghost Town Tour Gravel Edition. It’s a bit longer, and includes low water crossings, dirt roads, and a few more hills than the mostly-paved edition. This route actually takes you through downtown Geneva, such as it is.