Home > County Spotlight > Johnson County

Johnson County, KS



(by Population)




Square Miles
Shawnee Town 1929
Shawnee Town 1929
Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park
Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park
University of Kansas
University of Kansas

A Place in the Suburbs

Johnson County, Kansas is the metropolitan center of Kansas. Largely comprised of Kansas City suburbs, Johnson County is home to such cities as Olathe, the county seat, and Overland Park, the second most populous city in the state and the Kansas City metro area. Other notable cities in Johnson County include Lenexa, De Soto, Leawood and Shawnee.

Cities within the county have been regularly featured in "Best Cities" lists. Overland Park has been often ranked as one of the best cities to raise a family while both Lenexa and Shawnee have been placed on the "Best Places to Live in the United States" list by "Money Magazine."

The History of Johnson County

Johnson County was one of the first counties established in the Kansas territory. It was established in 1855 in the name of Thomas Johnson, who was a Methodist missionary with the purpose to convert Shawnee by means of manual labor. The now controversial figure was a slave owner, though he did eventually sign a Union pledge during the Civil War.

Johnson County's position on the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails made the then rural area popular stops for those seeking greener pastures beyond the rising growth of Kansas City. Though many passed through, there were those who found fulfillment in putting down roots in Johnson County. One was famous gunfighter, Wild Bill Hickok, who was constable of the township that would later become Shawnee.

The growth of Johnson County truly began after World War II when suburban housing throughout the United States was desirable to those who no longer wished to live in congested cities. Kansas City was not as attractive as it once had been to those families who wanted to get away from the rising crime that was largely encouraged by the Kansas City mafia.

The county has continued to thrive over the years, thanks to an influx of residents who wish to take advantage of the low tax rate, low cost of living and beautiful atmosphere.

More Than the Great Plains

The picture of Kansas is golden fields, peppered with grasses and sunflowers. Though the proximity of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers gives Johnson County more rolling hills than flat terrain, the serenity of Kansas is not lost. Prairies, forests and many lovely streams are peppered throughout the land.

The beauty of Johnson County can be found in its numerous parks. Though they vary in size and scope, each is unique in how it presents the lay of the land.

Antioch Park is the county's oldest and one of the most visited. It has walking trails, two fishing lakes, a rose garden and arboretum. Though the planted trees and bushes are not all indigenous to the Kansas City area, they have become an important part of the county.

The Ernie Miller Park & Nature Center is arguably the best spot to see the flora and fauna of the region. It is a 116-acre park that features prairies, uplands, bottomlands and natural wildlife.

Johnson County Demographics

The county has over 600,000 residents, making it the most populous county in the state. It also has the highest raw number of college graduates as over 50 percent of residents have a bachelor's degree or higher. It also has the highest median income and lowest percentage of people living in poverty in the state.

Johnson County Jobs and Education

A primary reason Johnson County is so attractive to those who wish to move or travel to the region is the low unemployment rate. Johnson County is home to the headquarters of numerous nationwide and worldwide companies. Some of these include AMC Entertainment Inc., the American Academy of Family Physicians, Black & Veatch and Garmin International Inc.

Higher education is a major employer in Johnson County. Midamerica Nazarene University, Kansas Christian College and Johnson County Community College are all based out of the county. A number of other universities have campuses within Johnson County. These include the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, Baker University, Ottawa University and Park University.

Other top employers are primarily in the technology and medical sectors. For example, Sprint Corporation, OptumRx and Overland Park Regional Medical Center employ nearly 10 percent of the population of Overland Park.

Things to See and Do in Johnson County

There is no shortage of entertainment in Johnson County. The Museum at Prairiefire: American Museum of Natural History in Overland Park focuses on hands-on archaeological, anthropological and geological learning. The Interurban Arthouse, also in Overland Park, has a blend of artists from dancers to fire-breathers to sculptors, who put on shows for all to see.

Art is also widely on display in Lenexa. Public art can be spotted throughout the city. Visitors will find sculptures like Amusing Breeze at the Greenway entrance to Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park or Grampa, which is near the Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park gazebo.

Along with the large number of parks in the county, there are many free activities throughout the region. Overland Park offers the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, which is on the Johnson County Community College campus.

For something a little more unique, try Shawnee Town. This working 1920s farm is an immersive experience that takes visitors back to the early days of the county.

Additional Johnson County Information