Project Description and Need: The Kansas River, one of only three publicly navigable
waterways in Kansas, flows for 170 miles through both urban areas and rural landscapes.
The history of the Kansas River—sometimes locally known as the “Kaw”—includes
significant events in the development and settling of the nation. Lewis and Clark’s Corps
of Discovery camped at the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri rivers in 1804 and
noted that the river was “navigable for 80 leagues.” The river valley provided a route for
overland migration to California and Oregon. The United States military used the river
route to establish Fort Riley and as a supply route between other frontier posts, like Fort
Leavenworth. Significant riverside historic sites open for visitors include Fort Riley, The
First Territorial Capital, Historic Lecompton, Topeka, Kaw Point Park in Kansas City,
and the Kansas History Center. The Kansas River historically linked these sites.
The Kansas River is a unique natural resource for Kansas and provides an attractive
regional recreational opportunity. Over two million people live in the various cities
and towns along the river, from the Kansas City metro area west to Junction City. The
designation and development of a “Kansas River Water Trail” is a high priority for the
Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism, and would be the state’s first public water
trail. Historically, the lack of river access sites has limited paddle sports in Kansas and
forced people to travel to other states for these pursuits. Currently there are 17 developed
public access points on the river and another under construction. Last year, Kaw River
State Park opened to the public in Topeka. Even with these developments, there are gaps
in desired access points, including one 37-mile segment, which is significantly more than
the 10 to 15 miles required for day trips.
Designate the Kansas River Water Trail and provide financial and
technical assistance to increase access to the river.
Partners:NPS, City of Topeka, State of Kansas, local governments, and nonprofit
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