History of Scott State Park

Scott State Park and the surrounding countryside is one of the most scenic and history-rich locations in Kansas. It is the site of the El Cuartelejo Archeological District, a National Historic Landmark which contains the remains of at least 25 archeological sites. The park lies in a canyon formed by Ladder Creek, which feeds Lake Scott.


Lake Scott was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. However, the story of the area dates at least as far back as ca. 1700, and some evidence indicates early peoples camped in the area in the 1300s. Thousands of ancient artifacts have been found in the area, the result of careful archeological investigations beginning in 1898.


The focal point of the park is the remains of a seven-room pueblo called El Cuartelejo, the most northeastern example of a pueblo in the U.S. The pueblo is thought to have been built by Taos or Picuris Indians who, fleeing Spanish control in the southwest in the late 1600s, took refuge among the Plains Apaches already living in the region. They settled in the canyon, built pueblos and nourished crops with a system of irrigation ditches from a nearby spring.


The remains of El Cuartelejo were first excavated in 1898 by paleontologists from the University of Kansas, who also found evidence of other pueblos in the vicinity. They learned of the site from Herbert Steele, an early homesteader who purchased the land in 1888, and was curious about a mound of dirt, stone and Indian artifacts on his land. Only the foundation was left, but numerous artifacts were found at the site. Steele and his wife lived in a dugout until they built a home from sandstone found along the nearby bluffs. The home still stands and is preserved as a museum in the park.


The Steeles wanted to share the history of this land with the public so, in 1922, they transferred ownership in the two acres surrounding the El Cuartelejo ruins to the Kansas Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). In 1925, the DAR erected a monument at the site to commemorate its historical significance. The monument still stands near the ruins, which are on the National Register of Historic Places.


Once the ruins of the pueblo’s foundation were unearthed in 1898, they began to degrade. In 1970, the Kansas Historical Society restored the foundation to its likely appearance when first discovered in 1898. Today, visitors can view the restored foundation and visit the Steele home, the DAR monument, and other sites and near in the park (including Battle Canyon, about one-mile south of the park entrance).


For more detailed information about this Kansas treasure, read the El Cuartelejo brochure or visit this Kansas Historical Society website. ( http://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/el-cuartelejo-scott-county/12026 )