The sandbar I am standing on is right below the scenic river road between Topeka and Lecompton.
(photo by Steve Cringan)
I started becoming more aware of the Kaw River when I first worked
for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Back in 1990s, I
was involved with water sampling the river for several state programs,
including the Governor’s Water Quality Initiative. On some of our
sampling field runs, we would collect water chemistry off several
Kansas River bridges. I remember one particular time in 1993 when I was
sampling off the bridge at Lecompton. I was amazed at all the high
water levels I was seeing in rivers throughout the state that year, but
especially on the Kaw. When I arrived at the bridge, the river was
flooding the north side and I could not cross over. I collected my
sample and captured a snap shot with a cheap panoramic camera.
Capturing that particular photo that day and others from the scenic
river road only inspired me more to photograph the Kaw River. I became
more interested in actually getting on and in the river. I wanted to
explore the many sandbars and experience the wildlife that inhabits the
Kaw. It wasn’t until 1996 that I saw a friend of mine kayaking down the
river near the Lawrence River Front Park. My friend, swim coach in the
1970s and Friends of the Kaw member, Mike Calwell, was on that trip. He
recruited me to join the FOK and invited me to join him on float trips
on the Kaw. I have floated the Kaw many times, but the most inspiring
time I spent on the river was during the monthly moon light float trips
in 1999. What a blast and what a challenge, but we floated the whole
171 miles of the river that year.
Before the 1999 moonlight float trips, I felt disconnected with the Kaw
River. I would only observe and experience the river from the bridges
that I collected water samples. The 1999 moonlight float trips helped
me connect to the river. There are certain segments of the river that I
enjoy floating and exploring. The upper Kaw in the Flint Hills area is
one of my favorite areas to take photographs, especially on fall float
trips. I enjoy stopping on sandbars when I am on float trips. I
immediately get out of my boat and start beachcombing. I find so many
interesting and different things to collect and to also capture with my
camera. There are mussels, mussel tracks, driftwood, bird and animal
tracks, artifacts, fossilized bones, beaver activity and interesting
shaped rocks. And, there are the sweeping, ever-shifting sandbars that
are as long as a football field.
I like experiencing the sights I find on the Kaw River. Like the
sunrises, sunsets, and the amazing stars at night when camping on the
sandbars. I like hearing the sounds of the rippling waters and the
rattling song of the Belted Kingfisher. I feel automatically better
when I experience this connection with this living river. The Kaw River
has inspired me to work on a book with photographic images I have taken
over the years. This is a beautiful river that needs to be protected.
It is a great recreational opportunity that is right in our backyard.
With the addition of several new boat ramps along the Kaw River, the
river will provide everyone the opportunity to connect to the sights
and sounds that is unrivaled by any other experience in the state.
Kansas City, Missouri
Staub on the Kaw - This photo was taken
while on a fall float trip from Junction City to Manhattan. Photo was
east of Ogden and shows a Cottonwood staub in the Kaw at Sunset.
Flinthills morning - This photo was taken east of Ogden. I rose early in the morning to capture this photograph.
Sandbar on the Kaw - Float trip was from
Wamego to St. Mary's. This photo was taken east of Wamego. The river
flow was low on this float trip. There were many exposed sandbars and
we got stuck a couple of times in the shallow waters.
Heron tracks - Float trip was from Perry
to Lawrence. Photo was taken east of Lecompton. I enjoy taking photos
of interesting things on sandbars, especially animal and bird tracks.
Kaw summer sunset - Photo was taken at the Lawrence River Front Park. I love sunsets on the Kaw.
Kaw Point sunflowers - Photo taken at Kaw Point Park in Kansas City, Kansas. I believe this photo was taken in September.
Late Winter on the Kaw - Photo was taken
at the Edwardsville Boat Ramp. This scene was captured in late March.
While I was there, the sky quickly changed into these beautiful orange
colors and it was changing very fast.
All images are copyrighted and may not be used without written permission from the artist.