Conquering the Kaw – Junction to Manhattan

This weekend was the first leg of our 170-mile journey down the Kaw River. It was looking pretty grim when we woke up at 6 on Sunday morning for the official start of our multi-weekend, Picky Bars-sponsored, epic voyage. The skies were unleashing a flood, bolts of lightning lit the city and the streets were flash-flooding. We could either suck it up, load our kayak, and get on the river, or we could cower under our blankets in fear. Looking at the forecast for the rest of the morning, we decided on the later. There were several other paddlers signed up to join us and only one of them was likely to show up in the middle of a thunderstorm. Since one of the main objectives of our Kaw River paddle was to get people outside and share the wonders of Kansas wilderness, it seemed pretty pointless to scare them all away before it even began. So I quickly posted an update that we would reconvene at 12 and resume with our plan.

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Despite the morning thunderstorms and extreme heat lately, Kansas gave us unusually perfect weather for an afternoon paddle and almost everyone showed up. We had a total of 22 miles to cover along the river. Five people joined in on the adventure. With cool temperatures, overcast skies, and lots of company, our paddle was fast and easy.

We started in Junction City, where the Republican and Smokey Hill Rivers meet to form the Kansas River. By 1:15, we were on the river and floating towards Manhattan. The river was relatively quiet, but there were a few eagle sightings along the way. Typically the Kaw is rife with sandbars, making navigation extremely difficult. Since the trip was starting so late in the season, I was concerned that we would be having to walk sections while dragging our boats. But the late summer rain storms certainly made the paddle much more relaxing and pleasant.

Most of the group got off in Ogden, the halfway point between Junction City and Manhattan where we had set a bail-out option car. The two of us and Darrin continued on to Manhattan. Junction City to Ogden was new terrain for us.


After about 4 hours on the river, we made it back to the Fairmont boat ramp in Manhattan. I was pretty amazed by how easy the day had been, despite having 22 miles of river to tackle.

Next week begins the overnight sections! Things are about to get tougher, but I think we got it! Another thanks to Picky Bars for helping out our adventure with the #Lifepoints Adventure Grant.

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