Rivers and Streams Access
Most streams and rivers in Kansas are privately owned. The public rivers are the Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri (shown at right). They are open to the public between the ordinary high water marks on each bank. This is the line that can be seen where high water has left debris, sand, and gravel during its ordinary annual cycle. When these rivers flow through private land, permission is needed from adjacent landowners to access the rivers as well as when picnicking, camping, portaging or engaging in any other activity on the adjacent private lands.
Except where they pass through the legal limits of a government entity, the rest of our streams and rivers are privately owned, and permission is needed from the landowners to access and use the streams and adjacent lands for any purpose.
The Kansas River National Water Trail was designated as a National Water Trail on July 14, 2012, the second river to be added to the National Water Trail system. Known locally as the Kaw, the Kansas River begins at the confluence of the Republican and Smoky Hill Rivers near Junction City and flows 173 miles to Kansas City where it joins the Missouri River. The Kansas River watershed drains almost the entire northern half of Kansas and part of Nebraska and Colorado (53,000 square miles). The major cities along the Kansas River include Junction City, Manhattan, Topeka, Lawrence and Kansas City.
Access Information and Float Trips: Friends of the Kaw
More Info: National Water Trails System
The Arkansas River is the longest tributary of the Mississippi River. It travels about 1,469 miles from its origin near Leadville, Colorado, through Kansas and Oklahoma to its confluence with the Mississippi River at Napoleon, Arkansas. In Kansas, the Arkansas River is pronounced “Ar-Kansas,” and is sometimes shortened to the “Ark River.” The Ark River is prone to seasonal reductions in flow. When the flow is low, the river divides into several small channels flowing in a broad, shallow bed. During drier periods, it may run dry on its surface in southwest Kansas, but picks up water as it flows through the state. By the time it reaches Wichita, there is often plenty of water for a scenic, leisurely float trip.
Arkansas River Access in Kansas
- Wichita: Wichita Park and Recreation Dept.
- Belle Plaine: east of town, under the K-55 bridge over the Arkansas River
- Oxford: Cave Park, north of the US-160 bridge over the Arkansas River
- Float trips: Arkansas River Coalition
The Missouri River flows through the northeastern border of Kansas – separating Missouri and Kansas – and travels through 10 states on its journey from its origin near Three Forks, Montana to the Mississippi River at St. Louis, Missouri. In Kansas, the cities of Atchison, Leavenworth and Kansas City are among the communities that settled on the Missouri River.
Missouri River Access in Kansas
- Kansas City: Kaw Point Park
- Leavenworth: just south of the K-92 bridge over the Missouri River
- Atchison: Riverfront Park
- White Cloud: north of the K-7/Main Street intersection on the east side of K-7
- Elwood: under the US-36 bridge over the Missouri River
Many streams provide excellent channel and flathead catfishing, and those in the east and southeast may also hold spotted bass. A little research and legwork visiting with landowners could open some great stream fishing.