Exploring The Sunflower Area

The Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant is a huge facility located in northwestern Johnson County, KS near the town of De Soto. The plant manufactured smokeless powder and propellants, starting in 1942, providing support for World War 2, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. It was the largest such facility in the world, and at one time employed over 12,000 workers.

The facility, which was last active in 1992, was declared “excess” by the U.S. Army in 1998, and the General Services Administration began the process of trying to sell the site. Since then, various proposals have been floated, from a Wizard of Oz-themed amusement park, to a planned “community in a park” concept, but nothing’s been done. Today, the plant sits largely empty, with only a few areas leased out to private firms. The remainder of the site is derelict, with buildings decomposing and nature reclaiming what it can.

The plant covers about 14 square miles, and the entire perimeter of the site is surrounded by a fence. You can see some of the buildings from the road, and they’re an impressive site.

I’ve ridden by the place numerous times, but never stopped to explore. Yesterday I did so, or tried to do so.

Turns out there’s not much to be seen, even on closer inspection. What can be seen is just sad, and kind of spooky — old buildings, overgrown roads and railways, concrete structures with no roofs, mysterious places half-hidden by trees and brush.

This is the locked gate to the Administrative Buildings in the background — huge structures with glass shot out of windows, just rotting away, falling into ruin.

This is the most iconic view of the plant, a row of water towers near the main gate.

I love this old sign: “Follow the Road to Safety” Was this part of the original plant? Erected for the Oz theme park idea?

Clearview City is a private community located just across the road to the north of the Sunflower Plant. It was originally built to house plant workers. Today it’s also a rather sad and forlorn place. There are a few hundred houses here, but no stores. There is a remnant of a post office and bus stop.

The community is split into two, divided by Sunflower Road. The western half is populated, the eastern half is abandoned, with the streets overgrown with grass and brush, much of it having become a dumping ground for construction materials. It feels like a ghost town, with no houses, but streets, sidewalks, and utility meters. It’s a very strange place to ride through.

Sunflower Nature Park is a small park situated on the northwest corner of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant property. It contains a small pond, and about 1.5 miles of paved multi-use trails. It wasn’t too impressive at this time of year, but I’d like to go back when the scenery is lush and green, and the flowers are blooming.

Sunflower Nature Park entrance.

The beavers have been active in the pond.

On the pedestrian bridge at Sunflower Nature Park.

DirtBum Written by:

I enjoy riding bicycles all over -- city streets, suburbia, rural roads, gravel roads, dirt roads, rail-trails, and singletrack. I love exploring the countryside and finding the interesting and historical treasures hidden in plain sight. You can follow my rides on Strava.


  1. Jerry Brick
    February 14, 2009

    What a very interesting place,thanks for sharing.

  2. March 25, 2009

    I enjoy your pictuers on PLant and all areas here.Bus stop been here I think now 3 yrs.I been here for3 years love walking my dog behind clearview baptist church area.Spring and Fall great time walking out here.Im looking for pictuers of plant as far back1940 when it started out here/

  3. T
    March 10, 2010

    The sign was part of a Safety contest in the 1980’s When Alliant TechSystems was the Contractor for the Army…

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