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Great Bend is a city situated along the Arkansas Rivermarker in the southwestern part of Barton County, located in central Kansasmarker, in the Central United Statesmarker. The population was 15,345 at the 2000 census, and it was estimated to be in the year . It is the county seat and most populous city of Barton County. The city was named for its location at the historic big bend of the Arkansas River.


Great Bend is on the southwest side of Cheyenne Bottomsmarker, which is the largest inland wetland in the United States. Greyhound racing got its start in the United States in the bottoms in 1887 during a formal coursing event.

Early settlers to the area came in about 1870. Most of the pioneer homes were rough dugouts and sod houses that barely protected their inhabitants from the severe weather often experienced in Kansas. They were fitted with holes in the wall to defend against the Indians. Early settlers killed buffalo to provide food for their family; plus they sent the tanned hides to the east for a cash income. A few settlers tried farming but were unsuccessful because the buffalo tramped down the crops. The first settlement in Great Bend township were made by E. J. Dodge and D. N. Heiser in 1871.

The town was named after the Great Bend of the Arkansas Rivermarker, a feature noted as early as the first days of the Santa Fe Trail. It was here that a trading post was established and later a small military post, Fort Zarah. After the Civil War the land began to be developed by easterners, and by the early 1870s a town had formed and Great Bend participated for a short time as a cow town, complete with shoot outs, Texas cowboys and saloons. Following the close of the cow town phase, Great Bend took up its place as a regional trade and service center, a role that grew stronger during the growth of the oil industry and, later, when it served as a major World War II Army Air Corps training base. Since then the community has continued to develop as a medical, legal and technical service center, as well as a regional shopping and entertainment provider. Since 1973, the Fuller Brush Company has had its factories here, having moved here from Connecticut after the founder's death.


Great Bend is located at (38.366056, -98.777958). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 10.7 square miles (27.8 km²), of which 10.6 square miles (27.5 km²) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.3 km²), or 1.02%, is water. Great Bend is served by one commercial airline at Great Bend Municipal Airportmarker.


Great Bend experiences extremes of heat and cold. Winters tend to be cool with lows in upper teens and highs around 40. But, large deviations from these temperatures are regularly experienced, with temperatures dropping below 0 F a few days in the year. Summertime, in sharp contrast, is hot with highs around, and often exceeding, 90 F, and several days of triple-digit temperatures in July and August. weather.


Great Bend's population was estimated to be in the year , .

As of the census of 2000, there were 15,345 people, 6,371 households, and 4,000 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,443.7 people per square mile (557.4/km²). There were 7,080 housing units at an average density of 666.1/sq mi (257.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 89.81% White, 1.62% African American, 0.43% Native American, 0.31% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 5.77% from other races, and 2.05% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 15.20% of the population.

There were 6,371 households out of which 30.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.1% were married couples living together, 8.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.2% were non-families. 32.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 3.00.

In the city the population was spread out with 25.7% under the age of 18, 9.4% from 18 to 24, 25.4% from 25 to 44, 20.9% from 45 to 64, and 18.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 92.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,841, and the median income for a family was $38,708. Males had a median income of $29,339 versus $19,647 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,085. About 11.5% of families and 15.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.0% of those under age 18 and 9.7% of those age 65 or over.



Great Bend has one daily newspaper, The Great Bend Tribune.


The following radio stations are licensed to Great Bend:

Frequency Callsign Format Notes
1590 KVGBmarker Talk

Frequency Callsign Format Notes
89.7 KBDA Christian AFR
90.9 KHCTmarker Public NPR; Satellite of KHCC-FMmarker, Hutchinsonmarker
91.9 KWBI Contemporary Christian K-LOVE
104.3 KVGB-FM Classic Rock
107.9 KZRS Adult Contemporary


The following television stations are licensed to Great Bend:

Digital Channel Analog Channel Callsign Network Notes
22; 2 (Virtual) - KSNCmarker NBC Satellite of KSNWmarker, Wichitamarker
30 K30GDmarker ABC Translator of KAKE-TVmarker, Wichitamarker

Notable natives

Argonne Rebels

From 1947 to 1989 Great Bend was the home of the Argonne Rebels Drum and Bugle Corps. Under the direction of many dedicated individuals including Glenn and Sandra Opie, the corps achieved national fame, most notably, American Legion national championships in 1971, 1972, and 1973. They were also ranked 3rd at the American Legion contest in 1956, and 5th at the Drum Corps International contest in 1972.


Agriculture is the predominant industry in Great Bend, and its grain elevators are visible from miles away.
Downtown Great Bend grain elevator and abandoned Santa Fe railroad station
The oil industry flourished from about 1930-1960. There was even an oil well in the city park. But this industry has been on the decline for years. Cattle raising is also an important source of income for many people.

Great Bend in literature/films

In November 1959 Perry Smith and Richard Hickok stopped for dinner in Great Bend on their 400 mile journey to Holcomb, KSmarker., where they murdered the Clutter family. Author Truman Capote wrote a ground breaking book In Cold Blood about the murder. In 1967 part of the movie, by the same name, was filmed in Great Bend. In the 1993 novel The Death and Life of Superman by Roger Stern, Jonathan and Martha Kent drive from the Great Bend, Kansas airport to Smallville, which would put Smallville somewhere in central Kansas.


  1. Cheyenne Bottoms: Jewel of the Prairie - - Retrieved February 10, 2009
  2. History of the Greyhound and Greyhound Racing - The Greyhound Review, February 2006
  3. Annual estimates of the population to . Released . Population change is from to .
  4. Stern, Roger. The Death and Life of Superman. Bantan Books: New York. 1993: 286.

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