Access ramp pitched at Kaw float
As he prepared to put his canoe on the Kansas River, Ken Tilford reflected on the appeal of floating on the Kaw.
"Everything looks a whole lot different on the river," the Edwardsville man said. "I like watching wildlife, so floating is a peaceful way to see a lot of different wildlife."
Tilford was one of about 60 participants Saturday in a Friends of the Kaw float. The event started on the access ramp near the Olathe water wells on Cedar Creek and went downstream to just east of Interstate 435. There, the canoeist left the river via an access ramp on Mill Creek that connects to Mill Creek Streamway Park.
With the Kaw's current running from 3 to 4 mph, the 11-mile trip would take an estimated four hours. Fast water on the Kaw is 6 mph, he said, hardly the stuff of white-water rafting.
Although the Kaw might not give paddlers the rush of mountain waterways, it offered its own diversions, said Mike Calwell, vice president of Friends of the Kaw.
"It's 170-mile-long wildlife corridor with everything from the fish, eagles and foxes," he said. "Nearly 50 percent of the state's wildlife is represented on the river.
"The other appeal is that it's public. The river is interesting in that it's a therapeutic source. It's an opportunity to get in tune with nature. It belongs to the people of Kansas. From high-water mark to high-water mark, it's ours. You can go out on a sandbar and camp without a permit."
The Friends of the Kaw had the event to give veteran and novice peddlers an outing on the river and build support for the organization's mission to protect the river's environment and promote its recreational potential.
The key to the latter goal was more access ramps, Tilford and Calwell said. Tilford said he became an avid Kaw River canoe enthusiast when a ramp was installed near Edwardsville.
Nearly a year ago, representatives from Friends of the Kaw attended a De Soto City Council meeting with the same message. They told the Council the organization would assist in any way it could.
De Soto City Councilwoman Linda Zindler told the floaters Saturday the effort was about to start in earnest. She and De Soto Mayor David Anderson have made initial progress with the help of local outdoorsman Paul Pingleton, she said.
Pingleton identified a general site for the access ramp past the mulch pile on Ottawa Street in the West Bottoms, Zindler said.
Calwell said his task would be to complete the permits applications needed for state and federal approval. He has led a successful effort to install an access ramp at St. George and is working on others in Perry and at Kaw Point in Kansas City, Kan.
The goal of Friends of the Kaw is to install access ramps directly on the river about every 10 miles, Calwell said. That is a good distance for beginning canoeist and should also put an end to any temptation to cross private property to get on the river, he said.
Zindler said she and Anderson would need the City Council's approval for the project. Should that be forthcoming, City Engineer Mike Brungardt would identify the exact site of the access ramp and complete its design, Zindler said.
The De Soto project would cost an estimated $30,000, Zindler said.
"I feel confident we can do it with donated materials and labor," she said.
City Engineer Mike Brungardt would do the design in house, Zindler said.
The proposed access point would be two miles upriver from the Cedar Creek ramp, Zindler said.
"That would be good for beginning canoeists and boaters," she said. "They could take a local trip on the river without peddling upstream."
The ramp would also provide access to the river closer to downtown De Soto in emergency situations such as last week's truck wreck, Zindler said.
The experience of St. George suggested another possible benefit, she said. A canoe outfitter opened for business in that town of 600 about eight miles east of Manhattan after the Riverkeepers helped get a ramp installed.
"It could fuel some economic activity," Zindler said.