Leaving Missouri the historic highway travels through only a tiny corner of the state of Kansas where it passes through the small towns of Galena, Riverton and Baxter Springs before entering Oklahoma. Galena is a town in Cherokee County in the state of Kansas and contains the eastern end of the portion of U.S. Route 66 that passes through the state. Galena is home to the International Harvester L-170 truck that became the inspiration for the character “Mater” in Disney’s “Cars”. The truck sits at 119 N. Main St. by the “Four Women on the Route” diner and souvenir store – a restored Kan-O-Tex Service Station.

Also, in the book The Grapes of Wrath, an American novel written by John Steinbeck published in 1939, the characters Sairy and Ivy Wilson came from Galena. During the springtime of the year 1877, two young white men found several stones which contained high amounts of lead. The land owner of the location where the stones were found was a German farmer by the name of Egidius Moll, who wasted no time in completing negotiations with the Joplin, Missouri Mining Companies nearby.

Soon more rich deposits of ore were discovered and by June 1st, 1877, two rival companies were bidding against each other for the lease or sale of mining property. The two rival mining companies also formed their own mining sites – Empire City north of Short Creek, and Galena, south of the creek, which was named for the abundant bluish-grey lead, to the south. The town of Galena was immediately laid out – the excitement caused by the lead discovery being so great that no sooner was one lot staked off than it was sold. The arrival of people was so rapid that in the space of only two months Galena had a population of nearly 3,000 people. Businesses were hastily established, miners’ shanties were built by the dozens and and the town site was being dug up with mining excavations everywhere one looked. Galena was incorporated as a city only two months later in May of 1877. That same month, a Post Office was opened and a newspaper called the Galena Miner had begun. More wagons, tents and hastily constructed buildings sprang up in this boomtown which swelled to a population of almost 10,000 residents.

Next is Riverton, an unincorporated community in Cherokee County in Kansas. It is located at the junction of K-66 and U.S. Route 69 Alternate and U.S. Route 400. It is located near the Spring River where after leaving Galena and heading west towards Riverton, travelers would have crossed the Spring River on the classic old Marsh Rainbow Arch Bridge. The bridge, with three consecutive spans, was built in 1922 and was in service throughout the whole era of Route 66, but sadly it was torn down in 1986.

This famous Rainbow Bridge situated around two miles or 3 kilometers west of town, was the site where back in 2000 musician Brad Paisley performed the song Get Your Kicks on Route 66 for the TLC Television Channel special “Route 66: Main Street America”. The Eisler Brothers Country Store in Riverton was one of the stops on Pixar’s Route 66 research trips for the 2006 film Cars. The filmmakers met with Dean Walker, then president of the Kansas Route 66 Association, who is known to be able to twist his feet backwards 180° and walk in reverse. He became one of many inspirations for the Mater character, a rusty old tow truck who teaches NASCAR rookie Lightning McQueen to drive in reverse in the Disney film.

“As luck would have it, we had just eaten a sandwich at the Eisler Brothers Country Store when we met Dean, He was proud as punch to show them his exorcist feet and regale them with stories of the Ghost Light.” said the filmmakers.

the Empire District Electric Company dammed Shoal Creek just south of the Spring River in order to build a hydroelectric plant at Riverton to generate enough electricity to provide power to 80 communities as well as the mining operations throughout the area. In damming the the river it also created the recreational Lake Lowell. The power plant, still in operation today, is still the only major businesses in this small town.

Heading along the Spring River, Baxter Springs is a city in Cherokee County, Kansas and the last town on Route 66 before entering Oklahoma. From being an early trading post, the city grew dramatically with the growth of cattle ranching in the West and was the first “cow town” in Kansas after the Civil War. Its population grew into the early 1870s due to its association with the cattle drives. After railroads were constructed into Texas, cattle drives no longer were made to Baxter Springs and other points along the trail, and the towns declined.

The next economic boost to the area came through lead mining. Baxter Springs greatly benefited from the economic effects of regional mining activity. It was the residential choice of many of the mine owners and operators, who built large houses to reflect their success. In addition, many mining executives built their business offices in Baxter Springs in the early 1900s. By the 1940s, however, much of the high-quality ore had been mined out, and the industry declined in the area.

Some towns like Hockerville, Lincolnville, Douthit, Zincville and others actually disappeared. The mining practices of the time caused considerable environmental damage, but federal and state restoration efforts have helped to improve the land since the late twentieth century. The city center of Baxter Springs is less than two miles or 3 kilometers from the Kansas-Oklahoma state border and is also only about 13 miles or 21 kilometers distant from Joplin, Missouri.