Alcove Spring

A stone marker in a grassy area.
Visit Alcove Spring in Kansas.

NPS Photo

Quick Facts
Near Marysville and Blue Rapids, Kansas.
A favorite trail campsite near the Independence Crossing of the Big Blue River.
National Register of Historic Places

Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Trailhead

A map of Passport and Places to Go locations for National Historic Trails.

Alcove Spring was a favorite trail campsite near the Independence Crossing of the Big Blue River. Often, emigrants would spend several days here, waiting for the swollen waters of the river to drop to levels that were safe for fording. They found the area picturesque, with the spring originating in an unusual rock formation and falling over a rock ledge into a pool below.

Emigrants carved their names in the rocks surrounding the spring, and many of these carvings are still visible. The ill-fated Donner Party camped here in 1846 and gave the spring its name. It was also the location of the Donner Party's first recorded death, Sarah H. Keyes, who died from consumption.

Emigrant Remarks

Edwin Bryant, traveling with the ill-fated Donner-Reed Party, wrote a detailed description of the spring on May 27, 1846:

"We found a large spring of water, as cold and pure as if it had just been melted from ice. It gushed from a ledge of rocks, which composes the bank of the stream, and falling some ten feet, its waters are received into a basin. . . . A shelving rock projects over this basin, from which falls a beautiful cascade of water, some ten or twelve feet. The whole is buried in a variety of shrubbery of the richest verdure. . . . Altogether it is one of the most romantic spots I ever saw. . . . We named this the 'Alcove Spring' and future travelers will find the name graven on the rocks, and on the trunks of the trees surrounding it."

Site Information

Location (6 miles South of Marysville on the East River Road)

Today, the spring is part of a 300 acre park. To reach it, follow the quarter mile, easy trail that starts at the parking lot. The park also contains several other hiking trails. 


Safety Considerations

More Site Information

Exhibit Audio Description available

Oregon National Historic Trail

California National Historic Trail


California National Historic Trail, Oregon National Historic Trail

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This 223-acre park is home to tallgrass prairie, hardwood forest, scenic views and a 5-mile network of trails. The area was a favorite camp for emigrants traveling the Oregon and California Trails as they waited to cross the Big Blue River. Many trail travelers carved their names in the stone around the spring. Today, Alcove Spring is a popular recreation area to take a trail run, let the kids explore nature, and to photograph sunsets and wildlife.

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Last updated: June 6, 2024