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List of rivers of Kansas

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This is a list of rivers in Kansas (U.S. state).

Map of principal rivers in Kansas
Map of principal rivers in Kansas

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ "Mid-Continental Geology," by William Gilliland.
  • ✪ "Kansas City Sewer History," presentation by John Dunn
  • ✪ The Doors - Riders On The Storm (ORIGINAL!) - driving with Jim
  • ✪ Uncharted Territory: David Thompson on the Columbia Plateau


Well, I’ve always been a generalist. I started working for the Highway Commission in the summers and then worked for the Kansas Highway Commission after I graduated. That’s where I met Dick when we initially formed the Kansas City-Omaha section of the Association of Engineering Geologists back about 45 years ago, and then I worked in research for the Highway Commission. I got paid to be curious. I inspected dams for the Department of Agriculture. I went out and worked in the oil and gas industry for a short time, got back on the State working in water rights, and my hobby has been adjunct professor. This is my 29th year at Washburn and I taught at Wichita State and Pratt Community College, so the students make me stay current. From some of the evidence of looking at the quality of coals in eastern Kansas, it appears that approximately one-half mile of material has been removed off of eastern Kansas, so it had been deposited possibly up through Cretaceous times and then with the uplift essentially one-half a mile has been eroded away and once that material is eroded away it’s carried downstream and been emptied out into the Gulf of Mexico. At one time the Gulf of Mexico had an embayment that extended as far north as Cairo, Illinois. The material that’s eroded off the midcontinent is filled in that embayment all the way down to the present Gulf Coast. So there’s been a lot more of Kansas and Missouri here in the past but it’s gone so we have to sort of use the best evidence we have from other places that correlate back to Kansas and Missouri to get an idea of what went on during this time period, so now, if some of you have some questions. I’ve got one. As you drive around Kansas City/Topeka, this general area around this general region, what are the top geological sites that we should be aware of or the most valuable geological sites? Well, some of the nice ones were exposed along Interstate 70. Here in the Kansas City area you have most of the rock layers of the Kansas City formation or group I should say, Kansas City group, exposed. Those layers do dip to the west and further out in western Kansas in some of the deep oil fields they do produce oil and gas out of those zones, and perhaps you’ve noticed some of the black shales that have been deposited around. They sort of weather out at the surface, sort of dark gray in color and almost break into paper-thin layers. Well these are high organic shales. They didn’t have enough organic material in them to become coals, but out of the carbon that was in those layers when they’re buried heat and pressure we cook out the carbon and form oil and gas, so they are some of the producing horizon or source rock horizons as you go further west. Also, some people are concerned about the black shales. Most of them have a rather high radioactive content. I knew one geologist with Kansas Geological Survey. It turned out he was excavating a site for a new house he was building in Lawrence and actually excavated into one of the black shales. Of course, everyone was concerned now, are you going to get radioactive products out of them, but unfortunately, well I should say fortunately those shales are so tight that the radioactive gases and daughter products can’t migrate out of them. They’re trapped within shales. So you have more problems with things like radon coming out of some of the gravels with breakdown of uranium. So really the black shales you don’t have to worry that much about here, but in western Kansas they’re great markers in the oil and gas industry for running radioactive logs and interpreting the stratum out there. In the Manhattan area, the Tuttle Creek Spillway—it was badly eroded in the ’93 flood with the massive amount of water that went through that, but the work with the Kansas Geological Survey and paleontologists world-wide they have determined that the boundary between two (pardon me), boundary between two periods occurs in the spillway at Tuttle Creek in the Howell limestone and this limestone is actually the boundary between the Pennsylvania and Permian periods, and now with correlation with the layers in the Perm Basin in Russia, Tuttle Creek Spillway has been designated as the stratotype for the Pennsylvania and Permian boundary for the entire North America. Now that gets geologists excited but not too many other people, but you can go up in the spillway at Tuttle Creek and collect some fossils that are loose on the surface or some of the rocks that are loose. They don’t allow you to dig in the spillway. Dick mentioned the ice over Kansas City area was probably 400 or 500 feet thick. At Topeka, we just barely had the ice push across the Kansas River and was maybe 100 or 200 feet thick, but if you get back up to the northeast corner of Kansas and right where the states pretty well come together up there, probably the continental glacier was 1,000 feet thick. As you go on up to the center of the continental ice up in Canada, there your thickness was probably around 10,000 feet thick. So the ice basically filled up this big pile that acts like mountain ranges do today, actually directed the weather around itself and drew in moisture and leashed it out to continually build it up until the end of the Ice Ages. How can you estimate how thick it was in different areas like that? What is it you look at that tells you that? In part, some of the deformation in the shales and limestones and how much pressure it would have taken to deform those layers. Also, Hudson Bay is the largest continental sea in North America and it’s still there right now because the crust hasn’t completely rebounded from being depressed by the great ice cap that was over that area and as it rebounds probably the Hudson Bay will eventually be dry, and also the area to the north side of the Great Lakes is rising up faster with rebound than on the south side so we are actually spilling the Great Lakes toward their southern shorelines and eventually maybe we’ll get the Lake Michigan draining back into the Mississippi basin like it used to. Is it going to take the silver carp with it? Actually, the Himalaya Mountains distort the movement of the air currents around the Northern Hemisphere. Well, when you add 10,000 feet of glaciers it also did the same sort of distortion and that brought moist Pacific moisture down in across the southwestern United States and that was dumped out there and it fed all the pluvial lakes that are in the desert basins that we see today. Now, that much weight of ice tends to grind up the rocks at the bottom and quite often literally reduces the rocks to flour-sized material. So if you see a white stream coming out of a glacier, this is carrying out that glacial flour and then as it goes out away from the glacier the channels get filled up, the channels move back and forth over an alluvial surface, and then periods where it’ll dry up and the winds will pick it up and blow it up out of the river valleys and up onto the surfaces around it. So these vertical loess bluffs you get right here in the Kansas City area, it used to be the Highway Commission tried to stand those up straight because they’d stand up that way and they wouldn’t erode off, but then with the newer ideas about wanting to have vegetation on the slopes and making them all nice and pretty and covered with vegetation, which as a geologist I think that isn’t the right idea. Let’s have the nice rocks out there to see them. But the loess would build up layer by layer and it has a vertical structure that allows water to migrate through it and so it’ll stand up, but once you lay it back then you notice there’s an awful lot of erosion to those slopes. You have to get them vegetated to preserve them then and the loess makes fantastic agricultural land. The loess areas out in western Kansas—these are our productive fields out there now, we all, the irrigation water to them. And also, finer material was blown up and clays were carried further away than the silt-size loess, so as you get away from the loess areas than the soil starts getting tight because you have clays out in those areas and it makes a tighter soil that you have to deal with. Yes sir. I see the Highway Department has cut through rocky areas and so we can see the strata through the ages. Uh-huh. OK. And I also see the, like a river bottom, like the Missouri River bottom, the bluffs are 200 or 300 feet high, and is that naturally water erosion? Yes it is. The streams removing the material. Huh. When the glacial periods are in at their maximum, this last glacial period probably lowered sea level about 450 feet because that water was taken out of the oceans and locked up on the continents. So that allowed the streams to cut down to a lower base level. So right here under the Missouri River, under the Kansas River, those streams cut down very deep valleys under the present valleys to match sea level that was 450 feet lower. Then as sea level rose that led to more sediments filling in those deep cuts and brining the level back up to above what we see today, and we’re in an erosional period for the streams to be cutting back down into their alluvial valleys. I believe under one of the bridges on the, I can’t remember which highway it is, had about 170 feet of alluvium underneath the surface before they started building the bridge. So I see this strata thousands and thousands of years and that’s pretty comprehensible that it grew up or was deposited, and then there are also rocks on the surface which just seem to be out of place, and could you describe some of those rocks or how they got there. Well, they call those erratics, and most of them in this swath of Missouri and Kansas were brought in by the glaciers. That’s why you can have the giant boulders that were carried along in the ice and in some cases those boulders were locked up at the bottom of the ice and they actually left gouges in the bedrock, can be traced to some of the giant boulders that were dropped by the ice and preserved at the present time. And humans, particularly like the pink quartzite boulders so future geologists are going to have a hard time interpreting the edge of the ice field because humans are taking this stuff out and using it for decorative purposes and hauling it all over the place. So that and these little asphalt seams and artificial conglomerate seams that run all over the place we call roads. Just think what they’re going to do to the poor geologists in a few thousands of years trying to interpret those deposits. I have lots of questions. (Laughs). How about back in Pangaea, was it when all the continents were together in one land mass? Yes, that was the last supercontinent. Supercontinent, and were changes being made then or formations occurring then that the continents broke apart and they were all carried away (Uh-huh) that were what we see today is something that happened maybe back when it was all together. Record in rock and continents are nice. They keep the things above sea level where it’s easier for us to study them, and really no place on the sea floor itself is the surface more than 250 million years in age because all the sea floors older than that have already been recycled. Now occasionally sea floors are trapped within the continents so the continents are lighter, they float above the heavier mantle and they don’t sink and get recycled. So this is how we can study these older rocks that are trapped here on the continent. Now, how old do you think southern Kansas and southern Missouri are as far as compared to the age of the earth? The granites that underlie these areas were developed on the edge of what became North America continent, about 1.4 to 1.5 billion years before the present, and then they got eroded off, they’ve been covered over, had more deposits laid down on top of them but preserved and we can drill through and study, but down in Woodson and Wilson counties in Kansas we had volcanos back about 90 million years ago during Cretaceous times that erupted so violently they absolutely ripped some of those primordial continental granites that formed North America and brought those up within the magma so we can actually find some of this ancient bedrock granite in boulders that are included in those volcanics down in those areas, and we had some 4-H geology kids down there just a little over a week ago that on a field trip where they had actually collected native volcanic metamorphic rocks. This is a follow-up question on the erratics. I’ve never noticed that as a casual person, what would you see, what would you be looking for if you’re in a glaciated area, like, I mean north of the river somewhere. Is there someplace where you would see that? Yes. Quite often you’ll see from gravel-size up to boulder-size these generally pink quartzites. They were river sands that had been metamorphosed into the quartzites and if they have more iron in them they may be purple. If they have less oxidized iron within them they may be as pale as white, but they’re, quartzite is very resistant to breakage and grinding so it would actually last better than the other type rocks around it so it gets left behind as a residual, particularly as weather removes the soil and gravels around it. Also, sometimes you can find sort of grayish-green rocks and these are referred to as greenstones, and these were ocean pillow lavas that were formed 3.8/3.5 billion years ago up in what’s now Canada, the formation of that area of Canada, and the glaciers also ripped those up and brought them down. So now you can find they call them a greenstone and generally if you break them open inside you see the black basalt that hasn’t been altered by weather to give it that green shade. Yeah, usually it’s unsorted. It’s all kinds of sizes together and those quartzite boulders come up from the corner, northeast corner of Iowa up into Minnesota and up into the Dakotas. A few years ago my wife and I went out to Cheyenne Bottoms, very surprised to find a huge wetlands in the middle of Kansas. Could you talk a little bit about the geology of Cheyenne Bottoms? That’s been argued a great deal (laughs) and apparently the Cheyenne Bottoms is in a structural sink, a declined area, and the most likely explanation for this is more soluble materials have been eroded out from underneath that area by ground water and that’s allowed this basin to form and develop, and it probably removed halite or salt that was deposited in the formations below that. But the strange part about it is the structure of Cheyenne Bottoms itself. Actually, it extends and includes much older rocks than the rocks that had the evaporites in them. So we never completely answered the question of how that formed. Had some, a lot of interesting hypotheses but as the elderly lady in Missouri said when she was calling her husband “hypothesis” and the pastor said, “Your husband’s George. Why do you call him hypothesis?” “Well, he never works”. So hypotheses are ideas that don’t have all the information to call them a theory. How many of you are interested in Indian artifacts? The glacial material has also brought down catlinite and catlinite is Indian pipestone and some of the tribes up in Minnesota and Iowa in there had the rights to go into the state park up there and still quarry the catlinite for their ceremonial purposes, but you can actually find catlinite within some of the glacial tills. It looks a lot like what people call jasper but it’s soft enough that you can scratch it with a steel blade or a knife or a nail, but glaciers are great. They’ve brought all this outstandingly strange geology into this area for us to be able to study. And did the glaciers didn’t just like come down from the north, they started in different places and spread out from there? Yeah, depending on which way the ice would move. Some of it that the ice load might move out to the west and then circle around and come back to the east from that direction, or within the glacial material across the northern part of north, across the United States, and particularly they found diamonds in the glacial material, very scattered, but by tracing them back and looking for minerals that are related to diamonds in the pipes they’re able to uncover the pipes up in Canada and instead of a volcano standing up, those soft kimberlite pipes were eroded out by the glaciers, so here you have all these lakes up in the wilderness area that overly these glacial, these diamond-rich, kimberlite pipes. So really they’re going in and they’re mining under these lakes for the diamond production. Where could we find a diamond, you say? (Laughs). You can also go down in Arkansas and try to find diamonds down there at the Crater of Diamonds State Park. You go in and pay your fee and they have this field out there that they plow up occasionally that is the weathered kimberlite material and you can go out and dig for and see and try to find diamonds. Pat and I, we found sunburns while we were there. They’re very rare but about the time we were leaving they did blow the siren saying someone had brought a diamond in to be identified in the headquarters, the museum area, and you get to keep them. Yeah, there’s clays most everywhere. Clays are a family of minerals and then we also use clay as a term for very small size particles, but the clays are actually related to the mineral feldspar that you find in granites and a lot of the other igneous rocks. As those weather and break down they change the structure. They incorporate water into the structures and you start getting the clay minerals formed and quite often the clays are very platy and particularly kaolinite is one of these that the structures are fairly strong horizontally but then they’re weak between and they take in an awful lot of water. Oh. That could give you your shrinking and swelling clays that you may have trying to raise gardens in or have problems with your house with the clays moving. Some of the real good clays—normally they don’t settle out until the water is real, real, has lost all its forward motion, so it has to be still water for the particles to very slowly settle out because they’re so small, and this might happen in an ocean basin at the margin of the ocean where clay is laid down that later becomes shales and you can also get clay deposits in lakes, and I do know of a case years ago back in the 50s. There was a little tussle between the U.S. and France so they started raising tariffs on things and something they decided they could put a big tariff on but it wouldn’t mean much, it would be more figurative-type thing, was clays for artistic use. Southwestern College down at Winfield ran out of clay and they found out the tariff they would have to pay on it would be about ten times the cost of the clay they normally imported from France. So the Art Department talked with one of the geologists that was teaching at that time and he said, “You know, I vaguely recall some mention of clay pits here on the property”. So they went out on the backside or the west, east side of the campus and found some of these old clay pits and these weathered Permian shales actually were better quality clay than what they’d been importing from France. Weathered Permian shale? Permian shale. Does that mean that the, if I have this right, the swamp when Canada when the area was a swamp, then they became shale, and then later that weathered into clay? Well, these clays were laid down at the margin of the ocean when it was hot, dry, and evaporated sea water. Oh. And these particular clays were laid down at the margin of that, compressed into shale, but now that they’ve come back to the surface and eroded, as they’re eroding out the quality of the clay was very good for artistic uses. They have been doing vertical fracking in the oil and gas industry by going down where the drill hole went straight through the layers and then they would frack those to allow the oil and gas to come in easier. But the big change now, well it started that sort of fracking in Kansas in 1948, but this new change is where they’ve gone in and they developed technology to steer the drilling in such a way that they can go vertically, then kick over in a curve and actually go horizontally in thinner layers that hold oil and gas. Then they go in and put those under pressure that fractures the rocks up, allows the oil and gas to move in, and they put in sand to help prop the stuff up, but the life of those type of oil wells is shorter compared to most vertical wells because you’re draining more of the formation in a short period of time instead of having it slowly migrate into a vertical-producing well. Now what they’re saying with the fluids from that—some of them are nasty. For the most part we don’t have trouble in Kansas and Missouri with that because it’s being done deep enough. Back east in shallower areas they did have some problems with people who didn’t obey the rules. This led to some of the contamination problems. Now, the fracking causing earthquakes. It’s unlikely to do it in oil field fracking. It’s the fluids that get injected, the increased amount of salt water and other contaminated fluids they’re pushing back in because they’re producing so much more. Now this raises the hydraulic pressure down underneath there. If there’s already a fault or something it tends to lubricate it and make it more likely to move. So fracking itself normally won’t be an effect of that in the midcontinent region, but from those fluids that they’re trying to get rid of down the disposal wells. This is just (recording cuts off here), particularly saltwater and, pardon me? Do they bring it from the sea? How does it get to the midcontinent? Well, that’s trapped in the rocks down there. Oh. It gets produced along with the oil and gas. Oh. As that comes up you separate it out and you have the oil and gas you sell and then you have to do something with the saltwater. Yeah, they pump it down what they call a, they either let it flow freely down disposal wells or if they’ve got a whole lot of it and they’re in a big hurry then they pump it down. Now the pumping increases the pressure and causes these problems we think are leading to the earthquakes. Do you think that they’re going to have any earthquakes where they’re doing the fracking, the most fracking today? Well, that’s in Oklahoma right now. It is? They jumped from what three earthquakes, three or four earthquakes over a 4.0 Richter magnitude in about ten years, now they’re talking about two or three hundred a year. Two to three hundred. (Comment in back, inaudible). Yeah. Between cigarette smoking and cancer? Yes. Yeah. The oil industry (smoking gun or what) has hired the same lawyers from the tobacco industry. Would you like to make some comments about the fossils on the top? Yeah. This one, I drool over that. This is one of the saber-tooth cats. I am not sure if this is the most recent one. I hate to handle it in case I drop it, but saber-tooth varieties of cats have come and gone over the ages. They even have some of the predecessor creatures to the cats that developed this type of saber and basically these aren’t like our modern biting cats that have smaller stronger teeth that they’re able to take on and bite into. They don’t like to but they can bite into bone and do quite a bit of damage that way. Like the lions, they don’t try to bite through somebody’s spine. That’s liable to wipe out their teeth, so they go in and try to go for the throat to choke them down or cause loss of blood. Now the saber-tooth cats, generally they have serrations along the backside of the saber and it’s also more knife-like. So they’re more of an animal that would go in and take down their prey by attacking and ripping into the flanks or the belly of their prey and taking them down by loss of blood and shock. There have been cases of Smilodon in which they’ve, that’s one of the most recent of the saber-tooth cats, that they find an elderly animal’s fossil that the broken sabers have possibly healed somewhat and been rounded off by use, so we think they lived in prides like lions do and the other members of the pride would be bringing in prey and the elder statesman shall we say was able to survive that way. There’s also the dirt-toothed cats. They have a smaller knife-like tooth and they again, they’re more of a flank and belly attacker than they are trying to go for the front end, the throat, or areas where there might be large bones. And this particular one, I’ve tried to collect some of these out in western Kansas. This is a cephalopod and you’re probably aware of the cephalopods today that we have like the squids, the octopus (octopi), and these would have these fancy shells this way. The only curl, the only shell coiled cephalopod we have today are the nautilus, and you see the nice nautilus shell they get from the Pacific or the Indian Ocean that they use for decorative purposes. This character would start coiled out, then they would start straightening out and then start curling back, and I believe these are scapolites. So here the animal would be up here with these squid-like tentacles and these water jet to move around, and they think maybe this is a modification to get the center of gravity closer in so they’re more maneuverable. Some of the straight cephalopods may find evidence of some of them up to 18 feet long. So if they’re that straight it’s difficult to steer. Ammonites? Yes, that’s, the first ones of those were the nautilus that had the most simple shell and they’re the ones that have straight petitions between the, where the animals have grown and moved forward, built more shell and then sealed off the back. But they also have a sifuncal, a tube that goes all the way back to this initial chamber that they built back here and they can use that to adjust their buoyancy by moving saltwater back into the different segments, moving gas in and out, and they can change their balance with their nice even coil, then the center of gravity is real close into their tentacles and it makes them much more agile, being able to basically turn on a dime, and then with the tentacles some evidence of some of the ancient cephalopods that they may have had 20-30 foot tentacles. Modern ones, of course, have much shorter ones until you get into the big squids. Thank you so very, very much.


By drainage basin

This list is arranged by drainage basin, with respective tributaries indented under each larger stream's name.

Mississippi River Basin

Arkansas River Basin

Missouri River Basin


By size

Mean flow in cubic feet of water per second (cfs). One cubic foot equals .0283 cubic meters

River Cubic feet per second flow Location of monitoring station
Missouri River 54,280 Near Kansas City
Kansas (Kaw) River 7,464 Near junction with Missouri River
Verdigris River 3,260 Near Coffeyville
Neosho (Grand) River 2,924 Near Parsons
Arkansas River 2,881 Near Oklahoma state line
Big Blue River 2,325 Near Manhattan
Marais des Cygnes River 2,219 Near Missouri state line
Smoky Hill River 1,540 Near Enterprise
Walnut River 924 Near Winfield
Cottonwood River 879 Near Plymouth
Republican River 839 Near Junction City
Delaware River 682 Near Perry
Little Blue River 672 Near Barnes
Solomon River 550 Near Niles
Fall River 536 Near Fredonia
Ninnescah River 528 Near Peck
Little Arkansas River 315 Valley Center
Caney River 288 Near Elgin
Chikaskia River 264 Near Corbin
Stranger Creek 247 Near Tonganoxie
Wakarusa River 220 Near Lawrence
Saline River 214 Near Tescott
Whitewater River 210 Near Towanda
South Fork Ninnescah River 210 Near Murdock
Mill Creek 189 Near Paxico
Lightning Creek 171 Near McCune
Black Vermillion River 169 Near Frankfort
Elk River 161 Near Elk Falls
Soldier Creek 158 Near Topeka
Medicine Lodge River 151 Near Kiowa
Turkey Creek 126 Near Seneca
North Fork Solomon River 116 Near Portis
South Fork Solomon River 105 Near Osborne
Indian Creek 102 Near Leawood

Source: "Annual Water Data Report" USGS, 2009. Navigate to page 3 of reports on individual monitoring stations. Average water flow totals will vary slightly from year to year.

See also


External links

This page was last edited on 21 March 2019, at 21:20
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