“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Glen Elder State Park in Mitchell County, Kansas — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)

Waconda Springs / Glen Elder State Park

Waconda Springs / Glen Elder State Park Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., August 27, 2011
1. Waconda Springs / Glen Elder State Park Marker
Welcome Visitors
Waconda Springs was said to be known to Native Americans as a ceremonial meeting place for the tribes documented to have used the area. The known tribes are: The Arickanees, Wichita, Sioux, Osage, Kiowas, Arapahoes, Cheyennes, Comanches, Pawnees, and Kaws. The legend of Waconda Springs is illustrated by a mural displayed on the west basement wall of the Hopewell Church. In short, the legend is a love story about the Indian Princess Waconda and her lover Takota. Forbidden to marry because they were of rival tribes, Waconda sacrificed herself following Takota's plunge into the springs after he suffered moral battle wounds. Thus the legend of the "Great Spirit Springs."

Waconda Springs was filled with the demolition debris from the original site during construction of Waconda Lake and Glen Elder Dam. Impounded water covered the site in the mid-1960's.

The Waconda Springs Replica you are visiting was constructed on this site to interpret the cultural significance of Waconda Springs. This significance has its roots in the Native American culture, westward expansion during white settlement, and contemporary culture through the mid 1960's.

Numerous artifacts, articles, and pictures of Waconda Springs are in general circulation and available from various sources, including internet auction
Waconda Springs / Glen Elder State Park Marker Kiosk image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., August 27, 2011
2. Waconda Springs / Glen Elder State Park Marker Kiosk
Trail leading to Waconda Springs Replica
sites and private collections.

Information brochures are available at the Glen Elder State Park Office and the information kiosk on site.

We gratefully acknowledge the contributions made by many, the efforts of Waconda Heritage Village, Inc., in cooperation with The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and the United States Bureau of Reclamation, and the Recreational Trails Grant; without which this project would not have been possible.

Waconda Springs
Legend of the Great Spirit Spring
Glen Elder State Park

Waconda Spring, or Great Spirit Spring, was a natural artesian aquifer located in Mitchell County, near the towns of Glen Elder and Cawker City in the U.S. state of Kansas. It was a sacred site for Native American tribes of the Great Plains

Native American Beliefs
Waconda Spring was located in territory traditionally controlled by the Pawnee Tribe, although the name "Waconda" actually comes from the Kanza, or Kaw, word Wakonda, meaning "Great Spirit." Native Americans believed that Waconda Spring marked the location of an underwater lodge where animals of differing species met to hold a sacred council. The animals were not revered as gods; rather, they acted as mediums in which individuals could acquire knowledge and power. The mineral spring was a natural stopping point for tribes traveling the plains following
Historical Photo on Waconda Springs Marker image. Click for full size.
By Unknown, undated
3. Historical Photo on Waconda Springs Marker
the buffalo herds. Tribes known to have visited the spring included the Arapaho, Comanche, Crow, Kaw, Kiowa, Miami, Pawnee, Sioux, and Wichita. Even though the Spring was located within Pawnee land, it was considered neutral territory.

Native Americans believed that the water had healing powers. Many left offerings of beads, blankets, weapons, and other items in the pool to ensure safe travel across the plains and to ask for favorable conditions with the buffalo hunt.

Native Americans also carved intaglios (art applied to burial mounds) in the land near the springs, several of which survive to this day. The last recorded visit of Native Americans to worship at the site was in the early 1870's.

There are several legends surrounding the "Great Spirit Spring". The most popular and probable is:
Wakonda was the beautiful daughter of an Indian chief. From he beginning, the elders of the tribe knew it was unwise for the chief to name his daughter after a god, which is what they considered the spring to be. As Wakona grew older, she liked to wander the countryside. One day she came upon an injured warrior.

After a short conversation, they were from enemy tribes but that did not stop her from nursing him back to health. The warrior's name ws Takota, the son of the opposing chief. Eventually, he regained his strength and went to Wakonda's father to ask for her hand in marriage.

Harsh words were spoken and a battle ensued. Takota was standing near the edge of the spring when one of the warriors from Wakonda's tribe shot him with an arrow and mortally wounded Takota. He fell into the spring as he died.

Heartbroken, Wakonda dove into the water after him calling to the gods to give back her lover. She never resurfaced.

Warriors from both tribes withdrew in awe believing the spirit of Wakonda dwells in the Spring and today still in its namesake - Waconda Lake.

Glen Elder Dam
In 1944 the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers announced plans at build a large earthen dam on the Solomon River near Glen Elder. The plan [illegible] Waconda Spring would be flooded beneath the lake. Local residents fought to stop the project but in 1951 greater than normal rainfall in Kansas led to massive flooding. This renewed the push for dams and other flood control projects.

Construction of the Glen Elder Dam began in 1961 and was completed by the end of 1963. Engineers bulldozed the hotel and health spa and dumped the debris into the pool of Waconda Spring. The Great Spirit Spring was lost when the river filled up the valley.
Location. 39° 30.618′ N, 98° 20.474′ W. Marker is in Glen Elder State Park, Kansas, in Mitchell County. Click for map. Marker kiosk is along the trail leading to the Waconda Springs Replica, with access from the parking lot at Hopewell Church, about 1/2 mile south of the state park entrance off U.S. Hwy 24. Marker is in this post office area: Glen Elder KS 67446, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 11 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Waconda (Great Spirit Spring) (approx. 2.4 miles away); Homestead of J. Gledhill (approx. 4.9 miles away); World's Largest Ball of Sisal Twine (approx. 4.9 miles away); Sod and Stubble (approx. 10.7 miles away); Missouri Pacific Railroad Depot (approx. 10.8 miles away); The Founding of Downs, Kansas (approx. 10.8 miles away); Memorial Hall (approx. 10.9 miles away); Carnegie Library (approx. 10.9 miles away).
Also see . . .
1. Waconda Springs. (Submitted on March 12, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas.)
2. The History of Waconda. (Submitted on March 12, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas.)
Categories. EnvironmentNative Americans
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas. This page has been viewed 659 times since then and 53 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
Editor’s want-list for this marker. Photos of the Waconda Springs Replica and the lower marker panel. Better distance photo of the marker kiosk. • Can you help?
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