It’s Paddle Season!

It’s Paddle Season!

Paddle season is here and you can join Friends of the Kaw for your first or next river adventure! We have big events coming up including Beginner Wednesday’s, Beginner Camping, and our popular Educational Paddle Trips including Bugs, Biodiversity & the Kaw coming up May 21 and a Water Quality Paddle on June 25! Find all of our events and sign up information on our event calendar!

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 22

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 22

Checking the entire river…..

Picking up tires on the Kaw. Photo by Dawn Buehler

It sure seems like winter keeps hanging on.  If you know me, then you know.  I’m all about summer!  My husband says we should truly live in another state based upon my love for warm weather.  That being said, it is crazy to think that I am departing on a 7 to 8 day river trip to do a river check in spring Kansas weather!  Wish me luck….I’ll be buried under many layers!

March was a busy month, but then every month has it’s own special kind of busy.  We’ve been working on our calendar and events for the season, getting grant projects kicked off, and fundraising for our new trailer, kayaks, boat trailer, and educational supplies for our Kids About Water Program.  Big heartfelt thank you to every one of you that donated to these efforts!  We could not do this without you.  We enjoy being a non-governmental public advocate – but that means fundraising to do our work.  Lucky for us, we have great donors and members that keep us going!  We can’t wait to show you all of the new gear once we get it all settled. 

I’ve done quite a few presentations this month to the Jayhawk Rotary, Manhattan Rotary, Tonganoxie Historical Society, and just this week, the keynote speaker for the Kansas Rural Water Association’s Annual Conference in Wichita.  Each of these are such wonderful opportunities for us to share our message.  Thank you to all of you!  If you would like a speaker for an upcoming event and want to learn more about our work for the Kansas River, reach out and get us on your schedule.  We love sharing our story!

Stay tuned to our social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) as we have a Kaw Minute coming out next week about doing river checks.  I will share some photos along the journey to our social media as well and will wrap up the trip with a blog post when I’m back in the office.  See you at Kaw Point or any stop along the way. 

May you always have sand in your shoes,

For the river,

Dawn Buehler

Kansas Riverkeeper

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 21

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 21

Kayaking the river on one of the nice days last week. Photo just upstream of Wamego. Photo by Dawn Buehler

I went out on the river over the weekend just before the sleet and snow arrived.  I did catch some of the wind at the end of the trip, but otherwise the weather was pretty nice for March in Kansas.  Kicked off at St. George after getting some pizza from Willie’s Hideout (if you know, you know).  Made it about 6 miles downstream and camped for the night at a side island bar that we call Steve’s Back Porch.  Long story, but I think every sandbar has a story!  We stayed pretty sheltered out of the wind except for the hour when the wind shifted and rattled the tent flaps.  Otherwise, it was a beautiful night with great temperatures.  The next morning, we took off for Belvue, about 14 miles downstream.  The sun came out, it got warm and we shed some layers and had lunch on Comet View Sandbar (another story).  The only part of the trip that felt like a heavy lift was the last ¼ mile into Belvue when the big winds hit.  Let’s say my paddle arms got an early start to the season!

Kayaking towards the Wamego access point. Photo by Greg Zolnerowich

Well, by now you should have heard the news if you watch our social media that the mega water bill, House Bill 2686, was gutted by a substitute bill in the House Water Committee last week on March 1.  If you want to read up on the latest, you can follow our friends at Kansas Rural Center and their Policy Watch.  The bill was not a perfect bill, but was an attempt by the House Water Committee to solve many of the problems that they heard over the course of two years of hearings.  Obviously, there were many different opinions about the bill.  Whatever your thoughts are, the bottom line is that we need to find solutions that find common ground.  You know, the place in the middle where we can all agree.  I am known as an optimist, and I know that, but hear me out.  The only way we can find solutions to the water issues in Kansas is to work together.  I don’t know much about politics, but I do know a thing or two about building partnerships and community consensus.  I think the path forward must be rooted in building trust, learning more about the different demands for water and move forward on that.  There will be those that say there is no place to agree – and to that I say, that mindset is part of the problem and not part of the solution.  Step one is to be willing to have an open mind and think about things from another’s perspective.  So, let’s start there.  We need a grassroots effort that includes everyone. 

On to more fun topics, like our events coming up.  Did you see that we are bringing back Bones of the Kaw?  Remember, we had this scheduled just days after the COVID shutdown.  Thanks to KU Natural History Museum, we are partnering to bring it back!  This event is free to our members (it quickly sold out, but we hope to release more tickets soon).  Coming up later this year, is Fish of the Kaw in June, Prairies of the Kaw in September, and Otters & Beavers of the Kaw in December.  You can look at all of our events on our calendar here:

Kaw River Guides building friendships during our Shawnee Tire Cleanup last year.

Still thinking about joining us as a Kaw River Guide?  Don’t hesitate and join us for our annual Kaw River Guide Workshop. Maybe you are nervous, don’t think you are ready, or are concerned about meeting new people.  I’m here to tell ya – all are welcome. We do our best to create an atmosphere that is inclusive and welcoming.  You don’t have to have it all figured out – you can learn along the way just like the rest of us did.  Just take the first step and come out on the river with us!  If you have questions, call or email me and I’m happy to visit with you about the program. 

Big, fun events coming up this year with themed paddle trips including our first one in May called “Bugs, Biodiversity & the Kaw” where you can join us on a paddle with Dr. Greg Zolnerowich, Entomologist with K-State, or a Water Quality Testing Paddle Trip with our very own Education Coordinator, Denise Kidder!  Later in the summer, we will paddle with the Jayhawk Audubon Society to learn all about Birds on the Kaw.  So many fun things to do, thanks to our partners.  All of our events will open about 6 weeks out and we will notify via our newsletter, so stay tuned.

First up are two big cleanups that we do every year.  The annual Manhattan Battery Case Cleanup and the Kansas River Cleanup in Lawrence (details coming soon).  Who doesn’t love a good cleanup? 

Denise Kidder, our Education Coordinator on the left, with our 2021 Board President, Margaret Fast. Denise never asks for much for her educational programs and really knows how to stretch a dollar. If you can, please donate towards the $2,000 we need to upgrade the materials she needs to teach students about water quality.

In the meantime, we are gearing up for spring by getting our gear repaired and ready to go.  Please consider donating to our Wish List – we need just 6 more new kayaks to complete our wish list for new gear for our Educational Paddle Program.  Thanks to you, we are almost there!  We also are in need of about $2,000 for our Kids About Water Program for new gear and training.  Please consider a donation to our programs to educate! 

I think that’s it for now – so much going on with our river that it is hard to put it all into words.  I did promise our late friend, Rolland Love, that I would continue to write my thoughts about the work we do for the river in a blog post.  Rolland passed away in January and was such a bright light to all that knew him.  Hilarious, kind, wicked sense of humor – and he always, always, always encouraged me to write.  So here I am, thanks to Rolland and I will keep doing my best to write about our journey.

I hope to see you soon on the river.  Join us – somehow, some way. 

May you always have sand in your shoes.

For the river,
Dawn Buehler

Kansas Riverkeeper

ADVOCACY ALERT: House Bill No. 2686

House Bill 2686

ADVOCACY ALERT: House Bill No. 2686

The House Water Committee has introduced a bill, HB 2686, with the goal of improving the protection and management of water in our state. You can read the bill on the Kansas Legislature’s website here:

Please consider submitting your thoughts on the content of House Bill No. 2686. You can submit testimony either in writing, virtual or in person. Testimony will be heard on Wednesday and Thursday of next week, February 16 and 17, 2022. We also ask that if possible, come to the Statehouse for the hearings! Water is important and we need to show our support for attention to water in Kansas.

Hearing: Wednesday, February 16, 2022, 9:00 AM Room 152-S.
Hearing: Thursday, February 17, 2022, 9:00 AM Room 152-S.

Here you will find the House Water Committee’s agenda for next week here.

We have also included the House Water Committee’s rules for testifying below. You should notify the committee assistant, Tony Prohaska, of your intent to testify as soon as possible and no later than 9 am Monday. Tony can be reached by email at or by phone at 785-296-7310. An electronic copy of your testimony should then be submitted to Tony no later than 10:00 a.m. the day before you testify. Testimony can be offered orally or written, virtually or in-person, and can be proponent, neutral, or opponent in nature. The committee rules are listed here:

Why is this important? Some thoughts from your Kansas Riverkeeper:

For years, we’ve been advocating at the Kansas Capitol for more attention to water issues. We’ve begged, pleaded, and danced around in hopes that someone would pay attention. In the middle of the battles over education, we were told that “water would have to wait”. The Kansas Water Plan has been under funded for the last 15 years and has never received an increase since it’s inception. We have heard from citizens that water is confusing in Kansas and that you never know where to go to find anything. We’ve been advocating, but often times it felt like our voice was small compared to so many other issues facing our state.

In 2021, the House Water Committee was created and they took up the issue (we are grateful). They spent all of last session taking a very hard look at how water is organized in Kansas, how far behind we are on dealing with water issues, and how much money we need to get things right. Along the way, the rest of us learned about water in Kansas, too. If you missed it, you can get up to speed by watching the videos of the House Water Committee in 2021 and 2022 here:

What we all learned, is that water in Kansas is confusing and we don’t really realize great synergies due to the way that water is organized right now. We are in this together – trying to make sure we have enough water for EVERYONE, the best water quality for EVERYONE, planning for climate change, and making sure that our kids don’t have too many messes to clean up. This is hard work, folks. I commend the House Water Committee for their hard work to bring forth House Bill 2686. I am grateful for their bipartisan leadership – yes, you heard me right. Bipartisan leadership. They have set the example at the Statehouse and I’m proud of the work they’ve done.

Now it’s your turn. Submit testimony. Be heard.
For the river,
Dawn Buehler
Kansas Riverkeeper

For more thoughts on water, read your Kansas Riverkeeper’s latest blog about funding water in Kansas:

14th Annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival


Tickets for Liberty Hall

Tickets for VIRTUAL Showing

What is the Wild & Scenic Film Festival?

The Wild & Scenic Film Festival was started by the watershed advocacy group, the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL), in 2003.  Read more here:  The film festival has evolved into the largest environmental film festival in the nation.  The annual event each January in Nevada City, CA kicks off the nationwide tour to over 140 cities. We think the films are just too good, and the messages too powerful to keep them to ourselves. Come watch and see for yourself!  Learn more about the Wild & Scenic Film Festival!

This Festival benefits Friends of the Kaw! We are hosting the 14th Annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival, and all proceeds from the event will benefit Friends of the Kaw and the Kansas Riverkeeper Program.

FREE Education Tickets, first come first serve.  Email request for FREE tickets to:  Courtesy of EVERGY’S GREEN TEAM! Learn more:

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 19

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 19

Kansas State Capitol Dome; Photo by Dawn Buehler

So, let’s talk water.  I’m not talking about the river itself, although it is directly related to protecting it.  I’m talking about water funding.

I have spent every year of my time with Friends of the Kaw advocating for water funding.  The first six years were spent advocating at Legislative Days at the Kansas State Capitol and in my role on the Kansas Basin Regional Advisory Committee.  Recently, in my appointment to the Chair of the Kansas Water Authority, I will once again be advocating at the Kansas State Capitol to fund water. 

Why is this so important?  The Kansas Water Office is responsible for creating the Kansas Water Plan, a comprehensive document that incorporates characteristics mandated by the State Water Resources Planning Act. Once complete, this document will be submitted to the Kansas Water Authority for review and approval.  This document outlines programs that can be used across the state to protect water quality and quantity.  This is a very detailed and well thought out document, but if you don’t fund it, it is of little value.

The Kansas Water Plan is required to be funded by the State Water Plan Fund.  The State Water Plan Fund receives funds from fees that are assessed to municipal, industrial, and agricultural-related water users and includes a demand transfer (statutory) from the State General Fund for $6 million and EDIF (Economic Development Initiatives Fund) for $2 million.  This total statutory demand transfer payment of $8 million per year has not been fully made into the State Water Plan Fund for the last 15 years, resulting in $84.6 million that has not been transferred to the Kansas Water Plan Fund.  In the past few years, the Kansas Legislators have increased the funding and demonstrated a commitment to these water priorities through partial restoration of these dollars.  However, the Blue Ribbon Task Force determined that the state needs roughly $55 million per year for water.  We currently sit at a total of approximately $20 million per year for water.  So….we have some work to do, but let’s start will full restoration of the demand transfer of $8 million. 

In Governor Kelly’s recent State of the State Address earlier this month, she announced that for the first time in 15 years, her budget would reflect a full restoration of the $8 Million to the State Water Plan Fund. We were thrilled to hear this announcement and thank Governor Kelly for supporting water.  Our next steps involve every single one of us in this state – we must make a call to action.  Please contact your Legislator (Kansas Senate and House of Representative, find yours here) and let them know that you care about water and want to see the statutory funding fully restored.  When you write, call or see them in person, please always be grateful and thank them for their work to increase funding over the years, however, please support full restoration of the demand transfer of $8 million. 

To get completely up to date on the status of water planning in Kansas, please read the Kansas Water Authority’s 2022 Annual Report to the Governor and Legislature.

We have more work to do, but it starts here.  We can do more, when we do it together.

For the river,

Dawn Buehler

Kansas Riverkeeper & Executive Director

Friends of the Kaw

2022 Fish Consumption Advisory Posted

2022 Fish Consumption Advisory Posted

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 18

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 18

Bonfire on the Kaw

Fall is one of the most beautiful times of year on the Kansas River.  As the leaves start to turn and the mornings are crisp, you find new life along the banks of the river.  You all know that I love to camp, but fall is a really special time on a sandbar.  Mornings around the campfire with a cup of something warm, a coolness to the air that makes you want to dive back into your sleeping bag.  Layers are the mode of operation as the day warms. 

When I last wrote for my blog, we had finished up the KAW 173 and kayaked the entire Kansas River, yet again!  We finished out the month of October with two of our biggest cleanups of the year in Manhattan and Shawnee.  We closed out 2021 with a record number of tires removed from the Kansas River – over 1,000 tires this year!  I surely hope we never break that record.

Paddlers on the Kaw in 2021

We also closed on a 14-acre piece of property along the Kansas River that will be a future river only accessible camp site.  Our dear friend, Darrel Zimmerman, donated this property to Friends of the Kaw.  To give you a sense of the backstory, I call him Mr. Z.  This is in reference to the fact that he was my 8th grade science teacher and his classroom was always a special place for learning.  I’m certain that many of my loves for science started in his classroom and are with me today.  But Mr. Z’s story to donate to Friends of the Kaw started long before I arrived at FOK.  His love for the river and the land in which he was raised is evident.  He can tell stories of the river and the land from his 80 some years on this earth and his passion for preservation.  When I asked him one time why he wanted to donate this land to Friends of the Kaw, his response was “the river gave us the land, so it is my wish to give it back to the people”.  I love you Mr. Z, for all you’ve given me, countless other DeSoto graduates, and all you’ve given to our river. 

The month of November is what I often refer to as, “conference month”.  In my role as the Chair of the Kansas Water Authority (KWA), I participated in a panel discussion with Representative Ron Highland (Chair of the House Water Committee) and Kansas Water Office, Director, Connie Owen.  This panel discussion was moderated by Representative Lindsay Vaughn.  This panel discussion was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Johnson County and if you missed it, you can watch it here:  This was a great discussion about water in Kansas!  I also attended the Governor’s Water Conference, the Kansas Association of Conservation District’s Conference, and we had our December meeting of the Kansas Water Authority.  It was a busy month for the KWA! 

With Friends of the Kaw, I also attended a meeting with Futamura, a business along the Kaw that has been working on improving the way they discharge to the Kansas River.  We met with Kansas Dept. of Health & Environment and Futamura to discuss their plans and updates that benefit the river. The construction work that they are doing will be done in late 2022 and will be a wonderful improvement to the area.  We hope to highlight our work together in 2022 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act.

Denise, Dawn & Kim at Beers of the Kaw this year.

Kim and I have written several grants this fall, one in particular for the Kansas River Water Trail to complete the kiosks at the remaining boat ramps.  We have also partnered on many projects and grants, mostly notable our work with KACEE (Kansas Association for Conservation & Environmental Education).  Denise, our Education Coordinator, is working in partnership with KACEE on this project to bring water quality education to teachers in the Topeka school system. 

And to wind out the year, we’ve been busy putting together a Wish List for 2022.  We have some really important projects, so please consider a donation.  We need to buy single kayaks for our Education Program, so would you consider making a donation? Your donation will ensure that students (and adults) learn about the Kansas River for years to come!  Here is our wish list, along with a link to donate: 

We have big plans for 2022 and we look forward to sharing it with you!  Remember that memberships are due March 1 and our Wild & Scenic Film Festival is coming up on February 25, 2022.  The format this year will be both virtual and live at Liberty Hall in downtown Lawrence!  We hope to see you there!

Best wishes to you and your family this holiday season. 

With gratitude for the river,

Dawn Buehler

Kansas Riverkeeper

2021 By the Numbers

Dear Supporter of Friends of the Kaw,

Thank you to everyone that joined us all year long to celebrate 30 years of Friends of the Kaw! This success is due in part to many people, including our members, donors and volunteers, that give all year long.

We hope you can join us on February 25, 2022 for our 11th Annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival at Liberty Hall in Lawrence where we will show our documentary about the 30-year history of our organization during the film festival.

We are asking you to please consider a donation to Friends of the Kaw so that we can continue to fund our work to patrol the Kansas River, clean up tire and dump sites, educate adults and youth alike, and advocate from the county to the Statehouse on behalf of our river. Thank you, to each one of you reading this letter today. Our members and volunteers are the real success story of Friends of the Kaw. We hope that you will consider Friends of the Kaw worthy of your year-end donation to fund our programs for 2022!

For the river,

Dawn Buehler

Kansas Riverkeeper & Executive Director

Make your end of year donation HERE, or use this form to mail to:

Friends of the Kaw
P.O. Box 1612
Lawrence, KS 66044
PH: 785.312.7200

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 17

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 17

KAW 173 Weekend #4 – Lawrence to Kansas City (52 Miles)

Our KAW 173 team for 2021…each person paddling all 173 miles!

Kansas can really take your planning for a wild ride. Have you ever tried to plan an outdoor event and hinged on every word of the meteorologist? How about events every weekend?  Whew…last weekend was one for the books. The front end of the week they called for a wash out, but no thunderstorms. I don’t like paddling and camping in the pouring down rain, but I can tough it out and do it. So, we marched forward with our plans for the final leg of our KAW 173 Journey for 2021. 

Cans left on the Kaw…pack it out!

We decided to push off at Lawrence a little earlier due to the potential for thunderstorms. This had us shuttling our vehicles at 11:00 am and on the river by 1:00 pm. We paddled about 8 miles in total on Friday and along the way we enjoyed discovering the river around Mud Creek, just east of Lawrence. We stopped on a sandbar, sadly to find that someone had a bonfire and left burned beer cans. I’m all for everyone enjoying the river, but not for leaving your trash. This river belongs to everyone, so it is our duty to take care of it for our neighbors to enjoy it too. Please pack it all out!

Kaw River Guide, Bill, and the team enjoying the sandbar.

It is a beautiful thing to realize that Monarch’s are not only still migrating south, but are doing so right through the river corridor.  We were amazed how many we saw and it is even more amazing to realize how far they have yet to travel (and how far they’ve already come). Nature is pretty inspiring when you think about the mileage of a Monarch versus our little 52-mile paddle for the weekend.

Great Blue Heron on the Kaw.

We had a really wonderful sandbar camp for Friday evening, just upstream from Eudora. On Saturday morning we again wanted to get an early start because of rain forecasts, so we got up and out at daylight.  As we launched, a beautiful great blue heron patiently allowed me to quietly drift by and sit in amazement. I’ve never seen one quite that close and the detail of the wings, the feathers, even the feet was magnificent.

Tires hauled off the Kaw by our team.

We enjoyed the river as we journeyed to DeSoto and saw many bald eagles, some beaver and kingfisher. There is never a shortage of wildlife along the Kaw. We also stopped at the area that we call “tire island”.  This is an area of tons of tires that were meant as bank stabilized and they are now scattered everywhere.  We decided that since we were only a few miles from DeSoto boat ramp, that we could each grab a tire and haul it to the ramp.  One tire off the river is one less tire in the river! 

Yours truly and the superstitious kayak ornament that might have helped with the storms! :)) Insert Laughter!

We quickly had a lunch break at DeSoto and dropped off a couple of paddlers that could only join the first night, then off we were to our next sandbar just upstream of Bonner Springs.  We really did enjoy the paddle, but we were being chased by rain clouds and we could see them all around us.  At one point we heard far away thunder, so we picked up the speed as were really close to our sandbar. It is quite amazing that by this point we had not been drenched. We got to the sandbar and managed to get all of our tents up and still no rain!  We even had a made a plan for how we put up 12 tents in the rain….four people holding a tarp over the tent while being setup. I believe it was our excellent planning that kept the rain away (laughing), others seemed to think it was a certain superstitious kayak mount (probably so!).  No matter the reason, we stayed dry and enjoyed a really wonderful campfire. The fire felt great as the cooler temperatures came in and we all cuddled up in our tents with warm sleeping bags. Around 11:00 pm, a very light and gentle rain came and it maybe rained for 45 minutes and then was gone and left us with a dry Sunday ahead. 

FOK Board Member and super volunteer & Kaw River Guide, Marcia Rozell, after we portaged the WaterOne weir.

Sunday was the hard day; we had announced to our group.  20 miles is a long day, but we’ve done more than that in a day.  We did 22 on Saturday (we’ve done 30 in a day before).  But what made Sunday harder is that we had to 1) portage the WaterOne weir and 2) paddling the lower section of the Kaw that acts like a slug with no flow. This is often caused by the Missouri River backing up into the Kaw and slowing it down. There are no sandbars on the lower end of the river and almost no place to stop except under bridges.  We knew this would take us longer that normal, so we were all prepared for the push at the end.  It was a long afternoon with the sun peaking out, rising temperatures, sore bodies and slow moving water….but we did it!  We made it 173 miles of the Kansas River Water Trail from Junction City to Kansas City! 

The three that paddled all 173 miles for the first time! Super proud of Scott, Jason & Joe! (PS…Joe also did the MR340 this year!)

I am really proud of this crew.  We had three people that did all 173 miles for the first time – Jason, Scott and Joe. These three are all Kaw River Guides and work hard for the Kansas River.  They had tons of river experience, but really wanted to complete the 173!  Congratulations to all of you, job well done!  Five of our original seven from last year also completed the 173 again – no small feat!  A few of our guides (myself included) paddled all the way out to the Missouri, touched a paddle before landing at the ramp at Kaw Point Park. 

Our team for weekend #4 – what a great crew and so much fun!

We had many people join us along the way and paddle sections of the river.  We really enjoyed getting to know so many wonderful people – river lovers and outdoor enthusiast – we all learned a little from each other and it was a wonderful way to spend the season. 

So, now we’ve showed you how to do it all at once or in four weekends.  Now it’s your turn!  Next year, we are challenging YOU to take the KAW 173 Challenge!  We will share more details early next year about how you can take the challenge – all at once or in four weekends or however it works for your schedule.  Explore all 173 miles of the Kansas River and discover every nook, watch wildlife, enjoy the sandbar, and sleep soundly in nature. 

Canoe with a river find strapped down to the front on the Kaw.

Reach out to me if I can help you discover the Kansas River.  We are a phone call or email away to get information about anything to do with the Kansas River.  Need help planning your trip?  Give us a call, we are happy to help you discover the river! 

My sidekick, Kim (our Program Manager). She is truly one of the best things to ever happen to Friends of the Kaw! You deserve a winter rest 🙂

Now it is time for me and my trusty sidekick, Kim and our hard-working Kaw River Guides, to take a slower pace into winter.  We will still be monitoring the Kansas River all winter – kayaking when the conditions are right or using our jon boat, but it’s time for a slower pace so that we can all reconnect with our families and read a book or two. If you want to get involved next year, you know where to find us.

I truly hope you always have sand in your shoes.

For the river,

Dawn, Your Kansas Riverkeeper