Finding the wild in Kansas

No one thinks of wilderness when they think of Kansas. It is the wheat state, strewn with cattle and large industrial farms. If you do a Google search for preserved land in Kansas, you will find virtually none. Kansas seems like a desolate place for outdoors enthusiasts and certainly not a place to find wilderness. But if you dig a little deeper and are willing to search a little harder, you will find the rivers. The Kaw River, the Arkansas River, and the Missouri River are the only open access waterways in the state, and they are also some of the best wilderness in the state. These rivers are some of the few remaining places where you can get a sense of what the original settlers and the Native Americans saw when coming to the prairie. Still, when I tell people I live in Kansas, they assume I can only get a dose of wild after a 7-hour drive to the Rocky Mountains. Our goal: To convince people that this is simply not true, that there is wild hidden in their backyards, snaking its way between cattle ranches and fields of wheat.

 

The Kansas River

A few months ago, I came across a grant to fund an adventure, the Picky Bars #Lifepoints Adventure Grant. Frank and I thought hard about how to apply. Do we write up something to fund a backpacking trip through the Rockies or the Ozarks? Surely, that would be picturesque and maybe even win us that grant. But we decided otherwise. Our goal has always been to get people EVERYWHERE outside. That includes Kansas. So, we applied with an idea to get as many people as we could on the Kaw River. Needless to say, we figured we’d never hear from Picky Bars again.

Well… we did hear from them. Apparently Picky Bars agreed, getting people outside and into the wilderness, in even the least likely of places, is important.

 Here we are, planning another adventure! Each weekend in August, we will be paddling sections of the Kaw River from its origin in Junction City to where it meets the Missouri River in Kansas City. We are having both experienced paddlers and novices join us throughout the trip and we’ve designated sections that are especially good for getting kids out and on the river. And did I mention that we get a free kayak?

kawmap

Our planned route

Thanks, Picky Bars, for helping us make this vision a reality! We’ll be posting updates about our adventure here on our blog.

Follow our adventure!

Twitter: @thisyogiruns

Or join our adventure!

Prairie Fire Meetup

Some of our previous efforts to get people on rivers

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2 thoughts on “Finding the wild in Kansas

  1. I’ve noticed that Kansas and Iowa are the only western states with no wilderness areas. Other than the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, do you think there are any other areas where a wilderness area could be established? Have you spent much time in the Cimarron National Grassland? Could a small area be pieced together out there?

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    1. I think there are a few areas where preserves would do well and would be well visited. Cimarron is definitely really beautiful and a great place for that. However, I think one of the most obvious places in Kansas would be in the Gypsum Hills. It’s almost entirely private ranches, but it’s a beautiful area with nearly zero access.

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