Located 650 feet below ground, the “Kansas Underground Salt Museum” is the only attraction of its kind in the Western hemisphere. Because of its uniqueness it was previously featured on “Modern Marvels”, a “History Channel” series.
The museum’s mine is also the location of a recent momentous scientific discovery made by Dr. Dennis Powers, Dr. Russell Vreeland, and Dr. William Rosenzweig.
The men discovered and revived a 250 million year old bacteria spore that they retrieved from a salt crystal taken from the mine.
The Doctor’s believe that the bacteria was just one of several that were thriving in the age before dinosaurs and they are continuing to plumb the mine’s depths for additional bacterial relics.
It is located in Reno County, Kansas. The county was once home to 26 working salt mines, 3 of which still remain in operation today.
South Hutchinson’s Salty History
Salt was first discovered in the town of South Hutchinson in 1887 by Ben Blanchard. The town holds an annual “Salt Festival” each second Saturday in June as well as maintains the site of Blanchard’s discovery.
The site is known as “Discovery Salt Well” and contains picnic areas, covered pavilion and displays commemorating the event as well as a 1,260 pound block of salt that was taken out of the mines by the now defunct “Carey Salt Company.”
Tours, Admission and Hours of Operation
As of 2010 the museum is open year round with hours varying by season. Currently its hours of operation are Tuesday through Friday from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm, Saturdays from 9:00 am until 6:00 pm and on Sundays from 1:00 pm until 6:00 pm.
The museum offers two types of tours that can be purchased either ala carte or as a combination package.
The self-guided gallery tour includes all exhibits including one on underground vaults and storage that contains authentic movie costumes from such studio powerhouses as “Sony” and Warner Brothers.”
The gallery tour only is $13.25 per adult, $11.90 per senior and $7.35 per child from the ages of 4 to 12. Children under 4 years of age are not allowed in the facility.
The dark ride tour can be added to the gallery tour. Combination gallery and dark ride tour tickets range from $9.85 per child ages 4 to 12 up to $15.75 per adult.
There is also another combination ticket available that includes the two salt museum tours as well as an all day pass at the nearby “Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Museum.” Combination museum tickets are $29.00 per adult, $26.00 per senior and $23.00 per child ages 4 to 12.
Visitors are asked to arrive 10 to 15 minutes before the start of each tour. Each tour lasts approximately 40 minutes so it is recommended that a full 2 hours are afforded to completely explore this site.
During the fall and winter months the first tour departs at 9:20 am Tuesday through Saturday and 1:20 pm on Sundays. The last tour of the day departs at 3:30 pm Tuesday through Friday and 4:00 pm on both Saturday and Sunday.
Though the last tour departs between 3:30 pm and 4:00 pm, the museum’s visitor’s center remains open until 5:00 pm each day of operation.
Annual Special Events
In addition to the normal tours the “Kansas Underground Salt Museum” offers a variety of unique special events such as the annual “Haunted Hutch” Event and murder mystery dinner theater event.
The “Haunted Hutch” event affords visitors the unique opportunity to not only learn about Hutchinson’s haunted history, but to spend the night inside the salt mine. This year’s “Haunted Hutch” event will take place on October 23rd, 2010 starting at 5:30 pm.
The tour will depart and end at the salt museum. During the course of the evening participants will get a chance to visit 4 different haunted locations within Reno County. The overnight portion of the event is optional and as such is sold separately.
Visitors can purchase the overnight portion for $25.00 per person or the museum and haunting tour for $45.00 per person. A combination tour and overnight ticket is available for $70.00 per person. Advance reservations are required and can be made by calling or contacting the “Kansas Underground Salt Museum” online.
Kansas Underground Salt Museum
3504 East Avenue G
South Hutchinson, KS 67501
Those would be Reno County visitors should log onto the state’s tourism website for additional information.