History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs

Kansas Rivers - Page 2
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Cottonwood River - One of the principal tributaries of the Neosho River, this waterway is formed by the union of two branches known as the north and south forks. The north fork rises near the west line of Marion County and flows southeast, crossing the east line of Marion County about 12 miles north of the southeast corner, and thence northeast to Cottonwood Falls, in Chase County. The south fork rises in the northwest corner of Greenwood County and flows northward until it joins the north fork a short distance below Cottonwood Falls. The main stream then follows an easterly course until it falls into the Neosho River a few miles east of Emporia.


North of Cottonwood Falls is the Cottonwood Falls bridge and dam. The first dam at this site was constructed of cottonwood logs in 1860, which provided water power for a saw and grist mill. In 1906 the dam was expanded and used to generate electricity. The present dam is constructed from cut limestone which was later covered with concrete.


Cottonwood Falls Dam

View of Cottonwood Falls Dam from the bridge, photo

 courtesy Kansas Travel & Tourism.




The first major bridge at Cottonwood Falls was a 150 foot long iron truss bridge constructed in 1872. The present bridge was constructed in 1914 by the Missouri Valley Bridge Company of Leavenworth, Kansas. It is one of only three remaining reinforced masonry, earth filled arch bridges that were designed by Daniel B. Luten and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places today.


Cow Creek - There are actually two waterways in Kansas that bear the name Cow Creek, one of which rises in the central part of Crawford County and flows southward through the counties of Crawford and Cherokee until it empties into the Spring River near the city of Galena.


Another and more important Cow Creek rises in the northern part of Barton County and flows in a southeasterly direction through Rice County and to Reno County, its waters falling into the Arkansas River a little below the city of Hutchinson. This creek was crossed by Lieutenant Zebulon Montgomery Pike  near the present town of Claflin on October 10, 1806.


William "Buffalo Bill" MathewsonIn 1863, "Buffalo Bill" Mathewson opened a trading post next to Cow Creek Crossing on the Santa Fe Trail. His hand-dug, 34 foot deep, stone-lined well that served the U.S. Calvary and Santa Fe Trail travelers has been preserved at this site, which is located four miles west and one mile south of Lyons, Kansas.


In the latter years of the Civil War some troubles with the Indians occurred along Cow Creek. For five days in July, 1864, 600 Indians besieged a trading post near the well and a wagon train nearby. When the attackers tried to overrun the post, "Buffalo Bill" Mathewson fired a small cannon into the midst of several on horseback and afoot, ending the siege.


On the evening of December 4, 1864, a small escort of the Seventh Iowa Cavalry, with a wagon loaded with ammunition from Fort Harker and bound for Fort Zarah, went camped on the bank of Cow Creek, about 15 miles east of Fort Zarah.


Soon after they settled, the troops were attacked by a party of Indians, who crept up under cover of the creek bank. The driver of the team and one soldier were killed, and the others fled, three of them finally reaching Fort Harker. Captain Theodore Conkey of the Third Wisconsin Cavalry, commanding at Fort Zarah, sent out a party of 25 men and brought in the wagon, though about one-half of the ammunition was damaged.


A government train bound for Fort Union, New Mexico, was attacked by Indians on Chavis Creek on June 9, 1865. Lieutenant Jenkins, with 60 men, hurried up from Cow Creek and followed the marauders to the Arkansas River, but they got away, having captured 101 mules, 3 horses and 75 cattle. Five days later the westbound overland coach, escorted by 6 men, commanded by Lieutenant Jenkins, was attacked a few miles west of Cow creek station. Jenkins held on until reinforcements arrived, when he drove the Indians to the river, killing and wounding 15 without the loss of a man.


Delaware River - Also called the Grasshopper River, it is one of the principal water courses of northeastern Kansas and one of the major tributaries of the Kansas River, rising in Nemaha County about two miles west of the city of Sabetha. At first, its course is southeast through Nemaha County, across the southwest corner of Brown County and the northeast corner of Jackson County, until it enters Atchison County about three miles south of the northwest corner. From this point its course is more southerly through Atchison and Jefferson Counties until it falls into the Kansas River nearly opposite the town of Lecompton. Its principal tributaries are Cedar, Plum, Gregg's, Walnut, Rock, White Horse, Big and Little Slough and Catamount Creeks, and the Little Delaware River. Its original name of Grasshopper River, was so called due to the visitation of grasshoppers in 1874. However, the name was unpopular and the legislature passed an act, which was approved by Governor Osborn on Febraury 27, 1875, that changed its name to Delaware River. The river forms Perry Reservoir, which is a major regional lake for boating, swimming, camping, fishing and other activities. The river itself also provide numerous opportunities for great fishing with some of the dominant fish including catfish, carp, longnose gar, drum, sauger, crappie, and white bass.


Old drawing of Fort Zarah

Old drawing of Fort Zarah.


Elk River - A picturesque stream of southeastern Kansas, it rises in the northwest corner of Elk County, flows in a southeasterly direction past the towns of Western Park, Howard, Elk Falls, Longton, Oak Valley and Elk City, and empties into the Verdigris River not far from Independence in  Montgomery County. The river is about 80 miles long. Between Elk City and Independence, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dam causes the river to form Elk City Lake, where a state park and federal lands along the lake offer recreation, including three National Recreation Trails.



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