Weekend Adventures: Paddling the Kansas River

Manhattan rests in the floodplain between the Kansas River and the Big Blue River, both of which are seasonal and often too dry to paddle. However, over the past few weeks, Kansas has gotten a significant amount of rainfall, causing flooding damage throughout the city and the water levels in the rivers to rise significantly. Frank and I took this as an opportunity to take out our kayaks and finish a significant portion of the river.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 9.38.05 AM
This is the portion of the river that we conquered.

On Saturday morning we gathered out gear, shuttled our car in Wamego (with the help of our friend, Zeb) and walked from our apartment to the Kansas River, which is a one-mile trek. Now, I don’t typically call one mile a trek, but when you are carrying all of the gear you need for an overnight paddle, plus two kayaks, one mile quickly becomes a trek.

Our loaded up Kayaks outside of the fanciest restaurant in town.

Seriously, we probably looked like nutjobs walking through downtown Manhattan with kayaks.

Dragging two boats behind Texas Road House.

We got to the river, set ourselves up and paddled away. It is kind of amazing how quickly it goes from a decent sized town to farmlands and wilderness. Within two miles on the river, you never would have known Manhattan was so close.



Since the water levels were so high, we were keeping a speed of about 5 mph without really trying. There was a lot of debris along the banks and on little sandbar islands, making it clear that the flooding had been pretty destructive out here on the river.

We paddled by a large group of frat guys from Kansas State, who threw full beers at us (thanks?) and cheered as we passed. They looked like a pretty fun (and drunk) group, but they were so loud we could hear them for another half mile. It kind of took some peacefulness away from the river. Fortunately for us, they were the only people we saw all day!


Frank paddling out ahead of me.

We stopped briefly in a small town called St. George, grabbed some food and paddled another mile before finding a small island to camp on. The sun was setting, and in full Kansas form, it was fantastic. Right across the river was an eagle’s nest and I could hear the occasional cry of the bird as I drifted asleep.

The view from my boat!
The desolate landscape of our island.
Seriously, it doesn’t get much better than this!

The next morning we woke up to some rather threatening looking clouds. We wanted to get to the car before it started to rain, so we packed up camp and got back on the river.

Can’t leave your island without a selfie!

It wasn’t long before we saw the Wamego water tower and knew we were close to the car. The take out was a little funky and I managed to get my boat caked in mud.

Almost to Wamego

It only took us about 6 total hours of paddling to make it from Manhattan to Wamego. We were a little disappointed that it was such a quick stretch of river and were hoping for a longer paddle. Unfortunately, because of the seasonality of the Kansas River, we had to play it safe, just in case the water was slower than we thought. Next time we are hoping to do a longer stretch, maybe all the way out to Topeka or Lawrence.

Paddling is always a super fun and nondestructive way to get into the wilderness. Kansas has very little preserved land and no areas for backpacking, so we were pretty proud of ourselves for finding a way to backcountry camp in Kansas.

Depending on the weather, we might be out for another paddle this weekend!

Did you go on any adventures during the weekend? Do you have any adventures planned?

17 thoughts on “Weekend Adventures: Paddling the Kansas River

  1. One of my good friends is a kayaking and whitewater rafting guide. She’s actually going to something this weekend called the Cheat River Fest in West Virginia! I love paddling adventures 🙂 What a cool weekend!!!! Great pictures!


    1. I’ve done some whitewater kayaking, but honestly, it scared the shit out of me. I always felt like I was going down the river uncontrollably to my death. There is some great stuff out in West Virginia. Maybe if I lived out that way, I’d get into it.

      It was a super fun weekend! It’s always nice to find fun stuff to do in Kansas… it’s like the least fun state! If there is fun here, there is fun everywhere!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I want to be like you when I grow up. Paul and I want to kayak… we have beautiful creeks around here that a lot of people kayak on. But right now,it’s just something we talk about and have never actually done it.


    1. Haha! Yeah, you should totally go. Just find a good rental place and pick a day! Frank hates having things on a list that he wants to do but hasn’t, so we kind of end up just doing those types of things right away. Also, being from Florida, we’ve always been around water, so we bought kayaks as soon as we moved to Kansas.


    1. Oh I love SUP! I’ve only done it a few times, since we have kayaks and I don’t like to rent boats if I already have them. Also, SUP might be a little annoying for an overnight. Haha!


    1. I wish that I lived in the desert. I’d trade Kansas in for that any day! I just try to make due with what I have, which for now, is pretty good rivers.


    1. Haha! Yeah, all of my friends thought that at first when I moved here. It’s been almost a year though and it’s starting to sink in that Manhattan, for me, is in Kansas.

      Running and yardwork can be fun! We live in a tiny third floor apartment, so there is no yard. I kind of wish I could do some gardening, though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wish! No… I live in a one bedroom tiny apartment with no frills. I almost ended up getting a plot at a community garden, but it was really expensive. I’m not going to live her long, so hopefully I’ll have some space in the next place I live.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You could also do inside plants? I did that in my first apartment. I had a planter by a sliding glass door (I did have a small balcony) and my cat would be sitting on it waiting for me every day when I came home!


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