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Kayaking the Kansas River is the Manhattan’s coolest adventure! Publisher Tyler Jackson takes you on a journey down The Kaw!

Article by Tyler Jackson

Photography by Jeremy Roberts and Tyler Jackson

Originally published in Manhattan City Lifestyle

When it comes to outdoor activities in Manhattan, none are as nearly as satisfying as kayaking the Kansas River!

The longest prairie river in the world begins in Junction City at the confluence of the Republican and Smoky Hill Rivers. It flows some 170-ish miles, ending at Kaw Point in Kansas City, where it joins the Missouri River. 

To paddle The Kaw, the first thing to consider is how fast the river’s flowing. For beginners, start near 5,000 cubic feet a second (cf/s). It’s a nice, gentle flow, with sandbars dotting throughout. At 8,000 cf/s, the sandbars disappear, and it’s going a little faster. Above 10,000 cf/s and beyond, it starts to move quite swiftly, with nowhere to stop, and it could get tough to navigate.

Another thing to factor is time. Pick a route that is time manageable, as it takes about an hour for every three miles.

You can start at the top, but my favorite stretch is Ogden to Fairmont Park in Manhattan. It’s fourteen absolutely gorgeous miles, and was considered the most sacred stretch of the entire river for the Native Kaw Tribe. You’ll pass by several Manhattan landmarks including Stagg Hill Golf Course, Stagg Hill, the Konza Prairie, the highway 1-77 bridge, and several water towers. You’ll even pass by the mouth of Wildcat Creek! 

My next favorite stretch starts near the train bridge at Linear Park, off Highway 24. This is a fun stretch, and probably Manhattan’s most popular. It’s ten miles long. Pro: Enjoy Willie Good Pizza from Willie’s Hideout in St. George when you’re finished! Con: It snakes back to the south twice. When it’s really windy, there are usually white caps you’re pushing into heading that way. It’s definitely still passable, but it’s something to consider, especially in a canoe. 

The last stretch to recommend is St. George to Wamego. It basically juts a giant V, and it's shorter than the three routes above. At 8.5 miles, this is a great route and angle for the wind.

Get on the water this summer! Take a friend, or someone who has never gone before! ALWAYS WEAR A LIFE JACKET, pick up your trash (check out Nauti Trash Cans!), and remember: 21 means 21. 

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