650 Feet Below the Earth…

So far, the Kansas Underground Salt Mine maybe the most unique place we’ve visited. It is such a one-of-a-kind in the fact that this is the only working underground salt mine you can tour anywhere North America, and one of only a handful you can visit around the world.

We made our reservations by phone as we were driving back from Dodge City, and after we arrived and picked up tickets, we had a few moments to peruse the expansive salt facts and displays while waiting.

Once our 1 p.m. tour was called, we (us and a family of three) gathered in a theater to watch an unintentionally funny safety video – but, it’s required and, we all know “Safety first!” We were then escorted to the hard-hat area to suit up and grab a self-contained breathing apparatus. This was required for all mine workers, though this particular salt museum has never had a person need the apparatus.

We then went to the double-doored industrial elevator and headed down the shaft. The ride to the mine took about two minutes with our ears popping the entire way. When we made it to the bottom, a nice, young man introduced us to the various sections of the mine.

The first area of the mine was quite large, housing not only history exhibits, but also large salt blocks in front of which you could snap some pictures. This area of the mine was exhausted of usable salt, and was now designed specifically for tours, meetings and other mixed usage.

We walked down the cave to a four part video explanation of salt mining process and the tools used. The area was mined salt primarily for winter roadways and was not fit for human consumption. The current mining process includes a very efficient and effective system of pyrotechnics and machinery that help collect a great deal more salt than ever before with fewer workers. It is also a much safer environment for the miners.

We also paid for two riding tours while in the cave. The first, a former zoo train carried us past several areas where previous mining companies had left debris and even feces as almost nothing that is brought down the shaft ever exited with the miners. The second, they call the Dark Ride which is a ride on a golf cart through the darkest areas of the facility. The small headlight lights your path, and the tour guide was able to point out much more detailed information about the mining process. At one point on this trip, you get to stop and fill a little cloth bag of salt as a souvenir (don’t bother buying it at the gift shop!)

The mine has been featured on dozens of television shows including Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe. The video plays on a loop in the visitor center, and gives even another angle on the improvements technology has made in this location.

If you ever get the chance, this is definitely worth a stop. For more information, click here.