History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs

Kansas Rivers - Page 3
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Little Arkansas River - Pronounced ahr-KAN-zez, this river is 90 miles and long and located in South Central Kansas. The starting point of this stream is not far from the town of Geneseo in Rice County. It flows in a southeasterly direction through the counties of Rice, McPherson, Reno, Harvey and Sedgwick, and empties into the Arkansas River at in Wichita. The origin of the name is unknown, but the stream was the Little Arkansas as early as 1825, when the Santa Fe Trail was surveyed and the names of the streams were given. The Osage Indians called the stream the "Ne-Shutsa-Shinka," the "Young, or Little Red Water." The river has high banks in many places, making it rather difficult to cross, and the flow is subject to sudden rises.


On Du Pratz's 1757 map of Louisiana the course of the Arkansas River is correctly given, and at the junction of the Big and Little Arkansas Rivers, a gold mine is marked.


This section was a favorite hunting ground with the Indians, with buffalo and other game being very plentiful. In October, 1865, a treaty was made with the Indians on the east bank of this stream, in which William S. Harney, Kit Carson, John B. Sanhorn, William W. Bent, Jesse H. Leavenworth, Thomas Murphy and James Steel represented the United States, while Black Kettle, Seven Bulls, Little Raven and others looked after the interests of the Indians.


Little Osage River - A tributary of the Osage River in eastern Kansas and western Missouri, it rises in southeastern Anderson and northeastern Allen Counties of Kansas as three short streams -- the North, Middle and South Forks. The forks converge in northwestern Bourbon County and the river flows generally eastward past Fulton, Kansas into Vernon County, Missouri, where it passes Stotesbury and collects the Marmaton River. On the boundary of Vernon and Bates Counties of Missouri, the Little Osage River joins the Marais des Cygnes River to form the Osage River, six miles west of Schell City, Missouri.



Keeper of the Plains

Blackbear Bosin's The Keeper of the Plains sculpture sits

 at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas

 Rivers next to the Mid-America All Indian Center in Wichita.

Photo courtesy Wikipedia.




Marais des Cygnes River west of La Cygne, KansasMarais des Cygnes River - A principal tributary of the Osage River, the approximate 140 mile long river is formed about three miles north of Reading in western Lyon County, Kansas by the confluence of Elm Creek and One Hundred Forty Two Mile Creek. It flows generally east-southeastwardly through Osage, Franklin, Miami and Linn Counties in Kansas, and Bates County in Missouri. It joins the Little Osage River at the boundary of Bates and Vernon Counties in Missouri form the Osage River, six miles west of Schell City. The name Marais des Cygnes means "Marsh of the Swans" in French, in reference to the Trumpeter Swan, which was historically common in the Midwest.


It was on the Marais de Cygnes River in Linn County that the Marais des Cygnes Massacre took place in May, 1858, an altercation between pro-slavery and Free-State forces during the Bleeding Kansas days leading up to the Civil War.


The river has long been notorious for flash flooding, the first of which was known as "Big Water" in Native American legend., occurring in 1844. Though no measurements were taken, it is estimated to have crested at 40 feet. Later floods included a 1909 flood which crested at over 36 feet, a 1915 flood which crested at 31 feet, another in 1928 where the water rose more than 38 feet, and the last major flood in 1951, where the water crested at over 42 feet. In this last major flood, 41 people were killed and damages were estimated in the millions. As a result, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers built levees and flood control systems on the Marais des Cygnes River in the 1960's.


In Osage County, Kansas, a US Army Corps of Engineers dam causes the river to form Melvern Lake, which is the site of Eisenhower State Park. The  river runs directly through the 7,500-acre Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge near Pleasanton, Kansas.


Marmaton River - A tributary of the Little Osage River, this 73 mile long waterway is situated in southeastern Kansas and western Missouri. The river rises in Kansas northeast of Moran in eastern Allen County and flows generally eastward through Bourbon County, Kansas into Vernon County, Missouri where it joins the Little Osage River from the south, seven miles southeast of Rich Hill. The river got its name from French trappers who saw numerous prairie dogs along the river which they called Marmots. The river was named for the animals which eventually evolved into "Marmaton."


Medicine Lodge River - A tributary of the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River, the 130 mile long river in southwest Kansas rises in the southern part of Kiowa County. It then flows generally southeastwardly through Barber County, Kansas into Alfalfa County, Oklahoma where it joins the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River about five miles northeast of Cherokee. The name is of Indian origin and has also been called in the past the "A-ya-dalda-pa River," "Medicine Lodge Creek" and "Medicine River." It got its name from a large hut built by the Kiowa Indians, who believed the water from the river had healing properties if ingested or inhaled in a sauna type room. At its confluence with Elm Creek in Barber County, the Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty was signed by the U.S. Government and major Western Native American tribes of the region  in October, 1867.


Neosho River - A tributary of the Arkansas River in eastern Kansas and northeastern Oklahoma, the river is approximately 460 miles long. The waterway is formed by two branches, one of which rises a few miles west of Parkerville in Morris County, while the other has its source in the southwest part of Wabaunsee County, at a point a little southeast of the village of Alta Vista. These branches unite in Morris County at a point a little northwest of Council Grove and flow in a southeast direction through the counties of Morris, Lyon, Coffey, Woodson, Allen, Neosho, Labette and Cherokee before entering Oklahoma at a point about due south of Melrose. From here, it flows in a southerly direction and empties into the Arkansas River near the city of Muskogee, about a mile downstream of the confluence of the Arkansas River and the Verdigris River.


This stream was first known to the white man as the Grand River and to the Indians as the Six Bulls River. The origin and history of the name is unknown. Zebulon Pike mentions the waterway as the "Grand" in the description of his trip to the Pawnee village in 1806. Stephen H. Long, who visited this section in 1819-20, speaks of it as the Neosho or Grand River, which might indicate that the name Neosho attached to the river between these two dates. Maps of 1825 and later spell the name Neozho. The survey of the Santa Fe Trail made in 1825-27, also gives the name as Neozho, while later maps adhere to the spelling Neosho. On the lower river in and around Labette County, evidence of an early or ancient civilization have been found in the past including fragments of pottery and flint implements.


Neosho River

Neosho River, May, 2009, Kathy Weiser.


An early writer, in speaking of the tributaries of the Arkansas, says: "There is not one that is at all navigable, except the Neosho from the north, which has been ascended by small boats for at least 100 miles."

The Neosho River has been dammed at several points along its course, in most cases by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In Kansas, a dam upstream of Council Grove forms Council Grove Lake, and a dam near New Strawn forms John Redmond Reservoir. In Oklahoma, a dam at Langley forms the Neosho's largest reservoir, the Grand Lake o' the Cherokees. A dam near Locust Grove forms Lake Hudson (also known as Markham Ferry Reservoir), and a dam upstream of Fort Gibson forms Fort Gibson Lake.

The Neosho River has several tributaries. In Kansas, it is joined by the Cottonwood River in Lyon County and in Oklahoma, it is joined by the Spring River in Ottawa County and the Elk River in Delaware County.



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