Visiting the Kansas Underground Salt Museum is like going back into the past while also seeing it with modern eyes. Travel 650 feet underground, sometimes in total darkness, to gain a new appreciation for how far mining has come. Originally formed after the Permian Sea dried up over 250 million years ago, one of the largest salt mines in the world was discovered in 1887 in Hutchinson, Kansas.
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It was made into a museum in 1999, meant to preserve the history of the area as well as the miners, although it did not open to the public in its current form until 2007. In 2008, it was named as one of the “Eight Wonders” in the state of Kansas.
Mine shaft - The ride down starts the adventure. After drilling through frozen aquifer and layers of both rock and silt, a 6-ton hoist was constructed. The lift takes up to 30 visitors at one time 650 feet below the surface of the Earth.
The Permian room - Based on the poem “Ode to Salt” by Pablo Neruda, this visually stunning space has been changed from simple underground to a spacious room allowing visitors a look at the strata that was created by the Permian Sea many centuries before.
Mining gallery - The mining gallery walks visitors through what life is like in the mining profession. The Myron mobile is in residence here (a vehicle used by Mike Rowe, the host of Dirty Jobs, on the Discovery channel) when he visited for the show. The gallery also compares and contrasts modern day mining with what mining was like when it originated.
Harry’s Habitat - Taking a look at a salt dwelling bacterium (humorously nicknamed Harry the Halophile) that turned a small pocket of salt water into a pure salt crystal by the time it was discovered in 1999, Harry’s Habitat introduces visitors to the Earth’s oldest living organism.
Salt Mine Express - The raw section of the salt mine is untouched from when how it was left 50 years ago. Ride the train through this part of the mine and see what life was like for miners in the 1940s and 1950s, complete with items left behind by the miners themselves.
The Dark Ride - Ever wondered how dark the inside of a mine really is? Take this 30-minute tram ride, collect a souvenir piece of salt and learn about the hazards of mining in the dark.
Engine No 2 - There are only 3 of these engines that have been built by GE. View this engine, built in 1919, outside of Strataca. It was in use for a short line from the 1920s through the 1960s, providing service to the salt mines before being retired.
Field trips are available for school children from kindergarten through 12th grade. The field trips last just under 2 hours and start with that long ride down the mine shaft before embarking on a handicap accessible walking tour through the salt museum. Led by a tour guide, students will walk through exhibits, take the dark tram ride (an optional addition) and leave through the gift shop with a souvenir piece of salt to remember the visit by (time permitting and with advance notice).
This field trip is meant for groups of under 30, leaving every 20 minutes. There is a small cost associated (at least 12 children must come to get the group discounted rate) and one adult chaperone is required for every 12 students (they are complimentary). Extra adults can come at a discounted rate with advance notice. Make sure to book ahead. April and May are the busiest months for Strataca.
The Strataca is available to book for any event guests can dream up! Anyone may have a party 650-feet below the surface of the Earth. Is there anything more “cool?"
Perfect for weddings, wedding receptions, business meetings, birthday parties and conferences, the room requires reservation in advance and a deposit to hold the room. The room can hold up to 250 guests (guests must be a minimum age of 4 years old due to safety concerns) and is rentable for up to 4 hours (guests must leave no later than 10pm). The room comes complete with full service bathrooms and Wi-Fi (yes, even 650 feet underground!). Round tables with 8 chairs a piece, larger rectangular serving tables and setup/cleaning help is included in the cost. Table linens and cloth napkins can be rented for an additional cost as well.
Guests may also tour the galleries and visit the gift shop as well, at no additional charge.
3650 E Ave G, Hutchinson, KS 67501, Phone: 620-662-1425