BEYOND THE GATES - Get out and explore Fort Riley inside gates, writer says
First Lt. Kamil Hattoum, 1st Eng. Bn., 1st ABCT, sits atop Atomic Annie at Freedom Park just outside of post. Photo by: Julie Fiedler, POST.
Story by: Julie Fiedler
1ST INF. DIV. POST
Editor's Note: This is a monthly commentary column by staff writer Julie Fiedler called, Beyond the Gates. In Beyond the Gates, Julie helps Soldiers, Family members, civilians and retirees discover Kansas by highlighting local destinations, fun and easy day trips, as well as quirky Kansas attractions.
I love exploring local towns and find few things as liberating or refreshing as heading out on the road with a full tank of gas in my car. Adventuring beyond the gates is one of my favorite pastimes.
But with school starting up and summer coming to a close, I decided to focus a little closer to home, which is a bit of a departure for me if you'll pardon the pun.
There's so much to do right at Fort Riley that I wanted to highlight just a few of the many attractions, organizations and activities inside the gates.
As Fort Riley celebrates its 160th anniversary this year, devote some time to learning about the installation's rich history.
The biggies, of course, are the 1st Infantry Division Museum, the Cavalry Museum and Custer House. As far as learning about the post's history goes, you can't get much better than these. Admission to all three is free and all have distinct items on display from wartime artifacts to slices of life on the pioneer. Let's just say, buffalo chips had their place in a Family's home. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/FtRileyMuseums.
On Huebner Road, the First Territorial Capitol of Kansas also is worth a visit. Made from native stone, the building served as the state capitol for a mere four days in 1855, but the legislature that met there had a powerful influence leading up to the Civil War.
From the spooky to the aesthetic, events like Ghost Tours in October and Tour of Homes in December, both put on by the Historical and Archaeological Society of Fort Riley, highlight unique aspects of Fort Riley's history. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/fortrileyhistory.
If you are a do-it-yourselfer, routes and information for self-guided walking and driving tours can be found at www.riley.army.mil/UnitPage.aspx?unit=dptms.museum.
ENJOY THE OPEN AIR
There are lots of ways to get out and get active on post. Many events and activities are offered through the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, but there also are self-guided hikes like those around the Custer Hill Golf Course, which has a bird viewing station; a two-mile loop off of Pawnee Bluff Road behind Demon Dining Facility that boasts steep climbs, pretty views and a small wooded area; and a short nature trail by Moon Lake, where folks can enjoy wildflowers in season.
Victory Park, located just behind 1st Infantry Division headquarters, is home to several notable statues including Lady Victory. The park provides a quiet spot to wander and reflect.
If solitude isn't your thing, try your hand at one of the many special interest clubs, which cater to a variety of tastes like the Fort Riley Airsoft Team. Various ranges for skeet, trap, archery and a range for those with personal firearms also are available. DFMWR's Outdoor Recreation Center can point you in the right direction for boating, paintball and more. For more information, visit www.rileymwr.com/odr.
While Atomic Annie, an M65 atomic cannon once capable of launching nuclear warheads, is technically outside the gates, it's so close that I'm including it. Located just across Interstate 70 from Henry Access Control Point, Annie, as the cannon is commonly known, sits on a short, but steep hill. Hike up the winding path past several other military vehicles to reach Annie, one of only a handful of these cannons in existence. Climb around the demilitarized weapon and enjoy panoramic views of the area, including Marshall Army Airfield. The trek makes for a great photo opportunity.
For sporting types, hunting and fishing opportunities abound. The Directorate of Public Works, provides helpful information about registration, range openings, regulations and more at http://fortriley.isportsman.net.
On top of the slew of DFMWR offerings like library events, Family Bingo, bowling and more, plus Corvias Military Living perks like pools for on-post residents, there are some great kid-friendly activities on post.
The Fort Riley Fire Department leads tours by request. Families can schedule time to tour one of the fire stations on post. To set up a tour, call 785-240-2038.
School groups can arrange to tour the stables of the Commanding General's Mounted Color Guard. Formal requests must be submitted at least 45 days in advance. For the request form, visit www.riley.army.mil/documents/PAO.CRDocuments/110317093648.pdf.
If your children yearn to stretch their legs, head to McCormick Park, Moon Lake or Wyman Park, all of which have creative displays, in addition to the usual slides and swings. Wyman Park also features an old Union Pacific steam locomotive that children can climb aboard and explore.
Searching "Fort Riley" on Facebook yields all manner of public pages and closed groups for common as well as niche interests. To get your bearings, good pages to start with are www.facebook.com/FortRiley and www.facebook.com/rileymwr.
The main DFMWR website points users to a variety of organizations like the Warrior Zone; Child, Youth and School Services and more. For more information, visit www.rileymwr.com.