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Kansas River Valley

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The part of Kansas River valley between Topeka and Wamego is on the boundary between the Dissected Till Plains and Osage Plains sections of the Central Lowlands physiographic province as defined by Fenneman (1931) and Frye (1946, p. 276). Schoewe (1949, p. 276) includes this part of the valley in the Attenuated Drift Border of the Dissected Till Plains. He points out that the topography is more bold than the true Dissected Till Plains but less bold than the Osage Plains to the south because discontinuous deposits of till mask the bedrock topography.

Where Kansas River is close to the south side of the valley, an asymmetrical profile normal to the course of the river is produced. The south valley wall is more abrupt than the north valley wall, and the north-flowing tributaries have steeper gradients than the south-flowing ones. The main valley of Kansas River is divided topographically into the channel-scarred Hood plain and a Hat poorly drained terrace.

The total relief of the area is about 345 feet, and local relief is about 150 feet. The highest point in the area, on the divide between Kansas River and Mill Creek in Wabaunsee County, has an altitude of about 1,240 feet; the lowest point, along Kansas River at the eastern extremity of the area, has an altitude of about 895 feet.


Kansas River valley is included in the area having a humid continental climate. According to the U. S. Weather Bureau, at Wamego the warmest months are July and August, which have monthly mean temperatures of 81.3° and 79.6°F, respectively, and daily maximums often in excess of 100°F. The summer of 1954 was unusually hot and the temperature was above 110°F for two days. The coldest months generally are December and January, which have monthly mean temperatures of 33.7° and 30SF, respectively. Winters are generally mild, but there are occasional cold waves during which the temperature is between 10° and -5°F for one to five days at a time. The annual mean temperature in the region is about 56°F, and the average length of the growing season is about 185 days.

Most of the precipitation is received from April through September. The normal annual precipitation is 31.73 inches at Willard, the recording station nearest the center of the area. Figure 2 gives the normal monthly precipitation at Willard, and Figure 3 gives the monthly precipitation and the cumulative departure from normal for the period April 1951 to January 1957.

Figure 2--Normal monthly precipitation at Willard.

Precipitation lowest in Jan., Feb., with averages around 1 inch; highest in May and June, and Aug., with averages over 4 inches.

Figure 3--Monthly precipitation and cumulative departure from normal at Willard for the period April 1951 to January 1957.

Wettest in 1951; driest in 1953; 1952, 1954, 1955, and 1956 more nore noemal precipitation.


The area is served by main lines of the Union Pacific Railway Co., which parallels Kansas River on the north side of the river, and the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad, which parallels the river on the south side from the east end of the area to the junction of Kansas River and Mill Creek, about 2 miles east of Maple Hill, where the railroad turns southwestward up Mill Creek valley.

Paved highways passing east-west through the area are U. S. Highways 24 and 40 and Kansas Highway 10. The last two are the principal highways on the south side of the river between Topeka and Junction City. U. S. Highway 24 parallels the river on the north side. Kansas Highway 63 is a paved highway north from St. Marys. The secondary roads in the area are all-weather gravelled roads maintained either by the townships or the counties.

Agriculture and Industry

The principal crop grown in the area is com. Much seed corn is raised between Wamego and Silver Lake for the Kansas Farmers Union in St. Marys. Other major crops include wheat, alfalfa, and soybeans. The uplands are used chiefly for grazing livestock, as the land is generally too rough and stony to be cultivated. Some of the highest divide areas have been planted to wheat or milo.

There are very few industries in this part of Kansas River valley. Alfalfa-dehydrating plants operate seasonally at Belvue, Rossville, and Wamego. No quarries were active in 1956, but there are many inactive limestone and gravel quarries.

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Kansas Geological Survey, Geology
Placed on web June 16, 2014; originally published March 1959.
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