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Topeka Dam Notch photo by David Greene
The Topeka Low Head Dam is a dangerous and outdated structure located on the Kansas River aka the Kaw River at river-mile 87.6. The low head dam or weir that is in place has claimed the lives of 3 paddlers in 4 years.

The Topeka Water Intake Dam is the most dangerous spot on the entire Kansas (Kaw) River. It claimed 2 lives in 2007 and most recently claimed the life of Dr. Ryan Moore who was kayaking on the Kansas River in July of 2011. The design is flawed and creates a deadly hydraulic effect below the dam. Once trapped in this hydraulic a person is repeatedly pulled toward the dam and underwater; escape is nearly impossible. This design is no longer considered a safe option by most communities in the United States and such dams have been rehabilitated to create water safe for fishermen, paddlers and other users of rivers. 

On July 19th, 2011, just four days after the most recent tragic loss at this site, the city of Topeka passed a vote to make it misdemeanor to trespass on the river within a certain area of the water intakes around the water intakes at the city water treatment plant. This is a Band-Aid fix to a much greater problem and will not stop this dam from claiming another life. There is a simple and inexpensive means to repair the dam. It is work that could be completed without affecting the dam's purpose or efficacy. It involves simply filling the area immediately below the dam with rock so that the energy of the water is absorbed and spread over a larger area and is no longer capable of trapping people.
Topeka Dam photo by David Greene


Left in its current flawed state, the dam will most certainly claim another life. Just one small mis-stroke of a paddle can lead an experienced paddler into the strong current and into certain danger. The next victim of the Topeka dam is a living, breathing person in our midst. Somebody's son or daughter, brother or sister, father or mother. We don't yet know their name. But taking the simple steps to fix the dam will save their life. And save another family from profound grief.



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