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Chapter 4 of The Kansas River Corridor--Its Geologic Setting, Land Use, Economic Geology, and Hydrology


Lawrence L. Brady, Kansas Geological Survey

Recreation Potential of the Kansas River and its Floodplain

The Kansas River in northeast Kansas provides the important water source for sustaining the large population of this region. The 10 counties adjacent to the Kansas River contain about one million people or about 40 percent of the people in Kansas. Water from the river is important for the industry, agriculture, and the population that has increased in parts of the Kansas River floodplain, along the terraces of the river, and on the hills adjacent to the river within the linear area we call the Kansas River corridor. Recreation for the citizens occupying this corridor, whether hunting, fishing, hiking, boating, canoeing, or nature observation, are all activities that draw people to the river itself. Many people in the corridor look to the river as a source of recreation as an escape from daily work. This is similar to the work efforts of the river itself in providing water for irrigation, industry, towns, and cities, and its bed load is used for development of those towns and cities and the infrastructure connecting them. The population is here because the river is here. How can this river provide the recreation for that population?

Although often criticized for their efforts, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) recognized early the recreational needs of the population; those needs were included as an important part of the major water projects it has developed in Kansas and the Midwest. Several of those reservoirs are on major tributaries to rivers and streams of the Kansas River. Along the Kansas River and its tributaries, the USACE recognized 29 potential sites for possible future development for recreation uses. The Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service (HCRS), a Federal agency that was abolished in 1981, with some of its functions assigned to the National Park Service (including river recreation), and the Kansas Parks and Resources Authority (now part of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks) further evaluated those sites selected by the USACE. Factors included in their selection and evaluation are access, water attraction, vegetative cover, soils, land use, slope, user availability, and costs to acquire and develop the land. Table 4.1 is an abbreviated version of the original table (HCRS, 1980, table 1) and lists the 15 sites selected along/or very close to the Kansas River, giving general characteristics and evaluation of each site. Only one of the 15 sites was found to be unsuitable, while 12 sites rated good, and two rated fair on over-all site qualities.

TABLE 4.1--Evaluation criteria for potential recreation sites along the Kansas River as evaluated by the Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service and the Kansas Parks and Resources Authority from sites initially determined by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Selected information shown in this table is from HCRS (1980, Table 1).

Overall Site
0WY6Boat AccessP-B-F-H-WS
8-9WY36Natural AreaP-B-F-H-WS-S
17-18WY1Boat AccessP-B-F-H-S-NS
21JO5Boat AccessP-B-F-H-WS-S
27JO8Boat AccessP-S-F-H-WS-S
34-35LV1Boat AccessP-B-F-H-S-WP
41-42DG1Boat AccessP-B-F-H-S-WP
43-44DG61Regional ParkP-B-C-F-H-WS
73-74SN30Regional ParkP-B-C-F-H-WP
100-101SN26Regional ParkP-S-H-WS-S-WP
107-108SN30Regional ParkP-SW-B-C-F-H
150RL28Regional ParkP-B-C-F-H-WS
169GE35Regional ParkP-B-C-F-H-WS
ExcellentExcellentAlready in

Potential Activities Code: B-Boating; BI-Bicycling; C-Camping; CA-Canoeing; F-Fishing; H-Hiking; HR-Horseback Riding; NS-Nature Study; P-Picnicking; S-Sailing; SW-Swimming; T- Tennis; WP-Walking for Pleasure; WS-Water Skiing

A 57-mile (91.2-km) portion of the Kansas River from I-635 (RM 7.4) to the confluence of the Delaware River with the Kansas River just north of Lecompton at RM 64.4 also was studied by the Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service as a potential addition to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System of the United States. This study (HCRS, 1980), presented in draft form, is the important part of Appendix 7 of that report, that was published separately from the USACE (1980) Kansas and Osage Rivers, Kansas Study.

A summary of the eligibility of the Kansas River to meet the 1970 guidelines for inclusion with the National Wild and Scenic Rivers (HCRS, 1980, table 2, p. 14), Table 4.2 in this study, showed that a 57-mile (91.2-km) reach of the Kansas River meets the necessary criteria. Further discussion in the HCRS (1980) report indicates that selected stretch of the Kansas River could be classified as a recreational river, based on conditions that existed at the time of the study. The important points from the HCRS (1980) study determining how the Kansas River meets the criteria for consideration as a recreational river are summarized in the report (p.16) as follows:

TABLE 4.2--Summary of the eligibility criteria of the Kansas River 57-mile (91.2-km) segment (RM 7.4 to RM 64.4) for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Information included in HCRS, 1980, table 2, p.14.

Characteristics57-mile (91.2-km) Segment
Free-flowing Nature Affected by
 ImpoundmentsOne Low-head Dam
 Road FillsNone
 Bank StabilizationsSeveral
Length57 Miles (91.2 km)
Water Quality Meets Criteria for:
 Secondary Contact RecreationYes
 Water EstheticsYes
 Fish and Aquatic-life PropagationYes
Outstanding Remarkable Values
 Fish and WildlifeYes
 Historic and ArcheologicYes
Eligibility for National Wild and Scenic River SystemEligible

The report presented recommendations for development of the 57-mile (91.2-km) segment (RM 7.4 to RM 64.4) as a recreational river component of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The report further presents general plans for the necessary development to be accomplished for that inclusion. Basically, easements on 272 acres (110.1 ha) at nine specific sites would need to be undertaken by a sponsoring agency. The principal objective of the recreational river concept is to provide enhanced recreational opportunities (USACE, 1981, p. B10).

The USACE (1981, p. 75) report concerning the 57-mile (91.2-km) segment of the Kansas River proposed by the HCRS as a recreation river concluded the HCRS proposal to be desirable based on recreation and environmental values. The USACE, however, determined that additional bank-stabilization measures would be necessary to ensure the integrity of the plan. No USACE analysis of recreation values, benefits, or costs was performed on the HCRS plan.

Kansas Recreational Corridor Study

During the latter stages of the 1996 Kansas legislative session, the Kansas Legislature determined that a multiagency study be made of the development of recreational opportunities along the Kansas River. The recreational study is to be completed by January 12, 1998, and will be conducted by the Kansas Department of Commerce and Housing, in conjunction with the Kansas Water Office, Kansas Geological Survey, Kansas Biological Survey, and the Department of Wildlife and Parks.

With this multiagency study underway at the time of drafting of this study by the Kansas Geological Survey, no additional discussion will be made in this report of the recreational uses of the Kansas River. The multi-agency group includes several agencies better prepared to address the importance and details of a recreation corridor along portions of or all of the 170 miles (272 km) of the Kansas River from Kansas City to Junction City.


Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service, 1980, The Kansas (Kaw) River from confluence of Delaware and Kansas rivers (River Mile 64.4) to Interstate 635 bridge crossing (River Mile 7.4), a potential addition to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System; in, Appendix 7 to accompany the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reconnaissance report--Kansas and Osage rivers, Kansas: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District, p. 1-30, plus 5 appendixes.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1980, Reconnaissance report--Kansas and Osage rivers, Kansas: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District.

________, 1981, Stage 2 report--Kansas and Osage rivers, Kansas: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Kansas River Corridor Study
Electronic version Jan. 13, 1998.
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