The Smoky Valley Scenic Byway takes the traveler through 60 miles of west central Kansas through the Smoky Hill River Valley. Named for their "hazy" appearance at sunrise and sunset, the Smoky Hills provide a transition between the mixed-grass prairie and the short-grass prairie of the plains. The byway offers a showplace of native wildflowers and grasses through the seasons. Coneflowers, yucca, Indian blanket and sky blue pitcher sage abound. In addition, the croplands provide a panorama of vegetation from the emerald green of winter wheat to the rich russet red of milo. Rock outcroppings hint of the layers of stone left by the inland sea millions of years ago.
Westward bound pioneers crossed this area as they traversed the Smoky Hill Trail. The Butterfield Overland Despatch, established at the end of the Civil War, originally carried freight then passengers from Fort Leavenworth to Denver. Today limestone markers identify two of its crossings along the byway.
Threshing Machine Canyon near Cedar Bluff State Park and Reservoir is the site of an 1867 Native American attack on a wagon train transporting a threshing machine to Brigham Young in Salt Lake City. Smoky Hill Trail travelers carved their names in the canyon walls.
Named for the 100-foot tall, cedar-covered limestone bluffs along the south side of the Lake, the Cedar Bluff State Park and Reservoir is a great place to camp, hike, fish, view wildlife, birdwatch, boat, play volleyball and horseshoes. The Reservoir hosts many fishing tournaments and other special events throughout the year including "Th Gatherin," a Celtic celebration of the ancient holiday Beltane (May Day) with foods, games and music.