Douglas County owns and operates the 17-acre Wells Overlook Park. Wells Overlook Park is located three miles south of Lawrence and was donated in 1971 to Douglas County by William Wells in honor of his parents and grandfather, who was in the third party of the New England Emigrant Aid Society to make Kansas a Free State. The park's intention was to create as natural of a setting as possible to enjoy the vista. The Park features an original multi-story observation tower and a recently constructed ADA accessible viewing platform, both providing sweeping inspirational views to its visitors. The Passerine Pavilion, constructed in 2021, features an architectural design inspired by a bird ready to take flight. In addition to providing a wheelchair accessible view of the county, wayside panels provide historic, geological and astronomical information about the land and skyscape seen from the pavilion. The nearby Polaris Pavilion also provides a wheelchair accessible shelter and dining area adjacent to accessible parking. In addition to the key observation areas, the park features a prairie restoration project and a ¼ mile nature trail, picnic areas with tables and a second shelter.
The park also contains a short nature trail for hiking. Follow the winding entry-road to the top of the hill to enter the parking lot. The park is located 3/4 mile east of US59 on the south side of County Route 458 (N. 1000 Road).
Open to the Public: 6 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Perched atop this ridge, the Passerine Pavilion at Wells Overlook Park appears as a silhouette starting to detach from the earth. It has been designed to create a sense of lightness, like a grassland bird poised to leap from the slope into the expansive prairie landscape. The overlook's upturned wings and spine slope backward toward its tail, resting on four pairs of slender steel columns. The reclaimed feather-patterned, brushed aluminium road sign shingle roof provides shade and protection from rain. A low, angling, steel-framed gabion wall contains interlocking stacked limestones. A break in the wall acts as a threshold into a demonstration prairie garden. The wall itself was intended to guide visitors to the east. While the hill slopes downward and the timber roof slopes upward, the wooden deck you are standing on now projects into the open air, instilling a sensation of rising above the landscape. This arrangement affords all visitors, regardless of their mobility, an experience of beholding the Wakarusa River Valley.
Studio Director: Chad Kraus
Students: Zevi Aronstein, Max Avila-Franco, Megan Bruey, Ryan Daniels, Eva Eliasdottir, Dylan Frye, Kimberly Gordon, Christian Maglasang, Bret Majarocon, Aaron Michalicek, Benjamin Obadia, Elizabeth Overschmidt, Antonin Some, Isaac Taylor, Jordyn Tobias, and Lucie Zumsteeg