Sandbar Blast to Celebrate 30 Years of Friends of the Kaw!

Sandbar Blast to Celebrate 30 Years of Friends of the Kaw!

Join Friends of the Kaw to celebrate 30 Years of protecting the Kansas River!

Tickets here: https://fok30yearsandbarblast.eventbrite.com

Come join us for a Sandbar Blast! Wear your flip flops, casual river wear and join us for an afternoon of celebration on a Kansas River sandbar at Kaw River State Park in Topeka (pending river cooperation)! If the river is too high, we will be on land – same location at Kaw River State Park! This is a fundraiser, so thank you for your donation to our work to protect the Kansas River!

Enjoy the reunion with current and past FOK staff, board and friends. We will host the first screening of our 30 Year Anniversary documentary near sundown, enjoy food on the sandbar, local beer and music from Tricia Spencer & Howard Rains! You won’t want to miss it!

Ticket price includes entrance to the event, food, non-alcoholic beverages and a donation to Friends of the Kaw. Beer can be purchased on site. Ticket + SWAG + Donation include Friends of the Kaw Truck Hat, 30 Year Sticker, and a wildlife bandana designed by Lisa Grossman!

Children are welcome, however, if they are under age 12 they must wear a life jacket on the sandbar at all times.

Portable restrooms will be provided. BYOW (whatever you want) is welcome! No refund on tickets issued as this is a fundraiser.

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 16

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 16

KAW 173 Weekend #3 – Topeka to Lawrence (42 Miles)

Our team of adventurers for the KAW 173 Weekend #3 Topeka to Lawrence. Photo by Dawn Buehler/Fred Bellemere

I pulled out of my driveway in the FOK truck loaded down with my gear.  My husband pulled in behind me with our truck and an empty FOK trailer.  Shuttling 15 people takes a bit of planning, but after years of this routine, we’ve got it down.  We pull into Lawrence and load up the folks from the east and head towards Topeka to meet up with the rest of our team.  Thanks to an FOK Board Member and my husband, we’ve managed to get all of the vehicles in Lawrence for the end of our trip.

True to a Kansas summer, it was hot out.  We’ve all learned how to prepare and how to acclimate to the heat, but that doesn’t mean you don’t feel that instant thick air of humidity.  Our team found a great sandbar spot and camped for the night.  The evening was quite pleasant and the sunset was amazing.  We knew we had two long days ahead of us, so we tried to get a good night’s sleep in the heat.

KAW Sunrise on Saturday from the sandbar, looking towards downtown Topeka. Photo by Dawn Buehler

When planning out the KAW 173 last year, we knew that the stretch of the river from Topeka to Lawrence was one of the hardest to do from a technical navigational standpoint and sheer endurance.  We knew that this trip would provide all of that coupled with the extremely low river levels at 1700 cfs.  When the river is that low, you better know how to read the channel or you will walk.

Our first challenge ahead was the new Topeka Weir chute, but the hardest part was getting there is low river conditions.  We had a great team of Kaw River Guides and together we made a plan, got to the chute and everyone enjoyed the splashing water for a change of pace!  We even stopped on a sandbar in downtown Topeka for a snack and enjoyed the scenery, which had been a rare occurrence for FOK before the new chute was designed. 

Off we headed towards Lecompton, knowing we still had to deal with the Evergy weir at Tecumseh.  Our Program Manager, Kim, was joining us at the Seward Ramp so we set our navigational paddles to Seward and arrived by early afternoon. 

The Tecumseh Evergy weir is a very dynamic and often dangerous section of the river for novice paddlers.  We have never felt it was safe enough to bring a group through here, so we don’t and probably never will until something changes here.  The river was very low, but we managed to get through it with a few folks getting a little wet, but overall, we did great.  We also saw a very healthy looking softshell turtle! 

Prof. Greg Z shows the team a softshell turtle on the Kansas River. Photo by Dawn Buehler

Along the way, we saw a part of the river that has very little activity and so it was quiet and peaceful.  We saw many Great Blue Heron and Bald Eagles, a few beavers along the shore, and listened to the sound of cottonwood trees along the banks.

We stopped on our sandbar for our second night of camping. The sandbar that we stopped at was beautiful on the far end, but on the shallow side of the sandbar it was completely littered with trash.  It appears to be from an old dump site scattered with more modern-day trash and a large pile of tires!  We’ve had this sandbar on our list, but due to the low river levels we were able to see the magnitude of the future cleanup.  We found old household items from the 1950’s and 1960’s era, we found modern day plastic bottles, toys, a trash dumpster, a TV and much more.  It’s really sad to see a TV embedded in the sandbar with otter tracks next to it.  This is their home and to see it trashed is heartbreaking, no to mention the leaching chemicals from trash into our drinking water supply. 

Otter tracks next to a TV on a sandbar downstream of Seward Boat Ramp. Photo by David Sain

We will be back for this cleanup but it will take some time for us to find landowners willing to work with us to get the trash out.  If any of you own land about three miles downstream from Seward boat ramp, give us a call and maybe we can work together to make our river cleaner and healthier for all. 

Sandbar littered with tires downstream of the Seward Boat Ramp. Photo by David Sain

We awoke on Sunday morning to the cold front and rain system bearing down on us.  We shoved off earlier than normal to get ahead of the system and our plan provided to be the right decision.  We stayed ahead of the rain most of the day and made it into Lawrence by late afternoon with little problems other than a few times paddling against a strong south wind. 

We had a great group of adventurers and our Kaw River Guides that made it a wonderful trip.  We are blessed with a lot of talent among our volunteers to help us navigate the river, assist paddlers, start the fire, help fix anything that breaks and many more skills.  I always say that my goal is to surround myself with really smart and resourceful people and our Kaw River Guides certainly fill that role!

Wonderful group of adventurers – so much fun around the campfire! Photo by Jason Keilman

Up next is our final weekend of the KAW 173 from Lawrence to Kansas City!  We will kayak the remaining 53 miles of the Kansas River the first weekend of October. 

Throughout the last two summers, we’ve shown everyone how to paddle the entire Kansas River all at once and how to do it in 4 weekends.  So next year, we will challenge you to do the KAW 173 Challenge!  More details to come…but start planning now for your own adventure!

In the meantime, we are finalizing plans for the 30 Year Anniversary celebration of Friends of the Kaw with our Sandbar Blast at Kaw River State Park in Topeka.  We look forward to sharing our new documentary about the last 30 years so be sure to get your ticket here:  https://fok30yearsandbarblast.eventbrite.com

We are also gearing up for Beers of the Kaw – more details to come!  We have big plans to hold the event both indoors and outdoors at Abe & Jake’s Landing – with vaccinations and masks required.  We will do everything possible to make this event safe for everyone.  We hope you will consider joining us as this is our biggest fundraiser of the year!  Tickets go on sale September 10!

Until next time….

For the river,
Dawn, Your Kansas Riverkeeper

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 15

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 15 KAW 173 Weekend #2 - Wamego to Topeka (38 Miles) Our team of adventurous souls! Photo by Jason Keilman If you are a native Kansan, well…you know that planning anything outdoors is an hourly challenge.  … [Continue reading]

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 14

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 14 Getting ready for KAW 173 Weekend #2 Wamego to Topeka (38 Miles) Field Ecology class from the University of Kansas It’s been a whirlwind month at FOK.  Summer is always busy for us and we love very bit of … [Continue reading]