Located along the banks of the Smoky Hill River in Ellsworth County, Kansas the Faris Caves are manmade caves carved into the sandstone rock by an early settler in the area named Charles Griffee. Mr. Griffee came to the area in 1884 and purchased some land just east of what had been Fort Harker, Kansas (modern day Kanopolis, Kansas) from a Mr. Atwood. Having been a miner in Colorado and with a shortage of trees in the open prairie at that time,
Mr. Griffee carved out three small rooms in the Dakota Sandstone bluffs to serve as his living quarters rather than digging a more typical dugout which was a common form of dwelling at that time period. The middle and right rooms were connected together by a door way essentially giving Mr. Griffee a two room house. The third room was used as a spring house to keep things cold and a natural spring in that room allowed things to stay fresh in the cool water. Each of these “caves” are about 12 feet square with 10 foot high arched ceilings. The coolness of the caves and the fresh spring water nearby would have given Mr. Griffee a suitable shelter during the cold winters and hot summers on the Kansas prairie.
In 1893 Charles Griffee sold his land and caves to Winfield and William Faris. The Faris families were early settlers in the area with two other brothers, Henry and Irwin having already established a hunting ranch in the Clear Creek Crossing area of the Smoky Hill Trail. After purchasing the land the Faris’ built a wood framed house close to the caves but continued to use the caves as a spring house, generator room and for a short time as a schoolhouse.
This area of the Smoky Hill River Valley has a history that dates long before Kansas became a state. Between 700 to 1500 years ago this part of Kansas would have been dotted by the earth lodges of Native Americans and the sandstone rock around Faris Caves and Kanopolis Reservoir is known for the rock drawings left behind as a reminder of these earlier civilizations.
You can get to Faris Caves today by following some gravel and dirt roads. The area is located in part of the Kanopolis Wildlife Area. Directions are available from someone local or you can easily use GPS to guide you to the caves. They are an interesting place to visit and a worthy side trip when traveling through the area.