Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 32

Chasing the Channel- Blog No. 32

The Flint Hills are spectacular from the Kaw!

Last weekend we did a river check (looking for pollution and trash) on the upper end of the Kaw from Junction City to Manhattan. The river winds its way through the Flint Hills in a magical way.  Around most of the river bends you get a perfect view of the green rolling hills and the beauty of Kansas that most never see.  There is something about being down in the river valley and looking up in awe of Kansas…. definitely not what out of staters think of Kansas! 

Kansas River through the Flint Hills, just past Ogden.

 As your Kansas Riverkeeper, it is my job to patrol the entire Kansas River each year to report any findings and push to protect the river. I often get asked how many miles I paddle in a year and it is always 173, but often is it around 700 miles in a season. I love the field work – looking for pollution, trash, taking water samples, checking outflows for the color of the discharge and the temperature, and whatever else I find. If I find anything that is harmful to the river, then I report it to the appropriate agencies. 

Kansas River and the Flint Hills.

Since I last wrote for Chasing the Channel…we have been extremely busy.  There are many good things happening at Friends of the Kaw and I am so proud of the team that we have assembled.  Back in March, we hired Joey Shondell as our Youth Outreach and Programming Coordinator.  Joey is a KU graduate and spent the last few years working with native plants, youth outreach and volunteer work days.  He has strong connections to our rivers and is a native Kansan with a passion for connecting young people to their neighborhood rivers and streams.  Along with myself, Kim, and Jane…we have a strong team to protect, advocate for and help people discover the Kansas River.

Joey Shondell, Youth Outreach & Programming Coordinator for Friends of the Kaw

I spent the winter and spring working with Kim and Jane to plan for the future, expand our work with disadvantaged communities, increase our education around climate change and continue to finish the Kansas River Water Trail.  I have also been working with our Board of Directors to write advocacy policies that state our stance on issues that impact the Kansas River.  If you are interested in reading our advocacy policies, you can find them on our website here:  We have a strong board with deep experience related to the Kansas River, water and the environment.  You can learn more about them here:

In late April, I was invited to present two lectures at the new Kansas Water Institute at Kansas State University. It was an honor to be on campus and present one lecture on water policy and the second on the Kansas River. We have been blessed by so many opportunities already this year to share our message.

Dawn Buehler, Kansas Riverkeeper and Executive Director, and Susan Metgzer, Director of the Kansas Water Institute.

My work as the Chair of the Kansas Water Authority (KWA) has been extremely busy – for a good reason!  In January, Governor Kelly tasked the KWA to work with key stakeholders at the federal, state, and local levels, public and private, to develop a strategic plan, including funding, and to determine the state’s role in the next decades of water funding and management in Kansas. Governor Kelly asked the KWA to provide initial recommendations for a large-scale, long-term investment framework around the five guiding principles of the State Water Plan before the 2025 legislative session.  The recommendations should include policy changes, ways to improve state capacity and water management, measurable goals and timelines, and include input from various state and local stakeholders.

So, since January, I have been busy working with my fellow KWA members, the consultant, agencies, and the Governor’s office as part of this initiative.  It has been a very busy time, but also exciting to have a focus on water.  We have been advocating for this type of effort for a long time and I am proud to be working with Governor Kelly and the team on moving this forward. 

Kansas Water Authority Meeting in January 2024 in Topeka.

The cornerstone of this initiative is stakeholder outreach.  Every Kansan is a stakeholder!  We all use water and need it to survive. That is why I am asking that each of you take a moment to review what we have been working on and find a way to participate. 

So please join Friends of the Kaw and others across the State of Kansas for local consult meetings to share your thoughts and concerns for water in Kansas as part of the Kansas Water Authority Strategic Planning Process. You can learn more here:

Meetings will include facilitated discussion of goals and priorities for three of the Guiding Principles of the Kansas Water Plan related to aquifer, reservoirs, and water quality issues. RSVP here:

You can join any meeting across the state.  If you cannot make these meetings, there will be another opportunity this fall for stakeholder participation.  We want to hear from YOU!  This is our opportunity to provide input to shape our water story for the future.  Remember that all of the issues for water in Kansas are issues for the entire state.  We must think about the state as a whole and how we can make sure that every Kansan has a secure water future.

Camping on the Kaw to watch the aurora lights on the Kansas River. Photo by Jane Liebert.

Now on to Friends of the Kaw events…we have many Beginner Wednesday’s coming up:  We also have restoration work days:  And even if you missed the Kaw River Guide Workshop, you can join at any time by contacting me.  Learn more:

We have also been working on a kayak storage locker idea for the Kansas River Water Trail since 2017! Our long desire to bring this to the river is coming to fruition. We partnered with Sain Works, Kansas Department of Commerce, City of Wamego and Wamego Chamber of Commerce to bring a pilot project of our kayak storage locker to the river town of Wamego! The fabrication is complete and the ribbon cutting will be Thursday, June 13, 2024 at 4:30 PM at the Wamego Access Ramp on the Kansas River. We hope you can join us to celebrate the hard work of our team, especially Sain Works for the design and fabrication, along with the help of our Kaw River Guides for installation.

Kayak Storage Locker Design. Image by Sain Works.

Lastly, and certainly not least, we are gearing up for some major cleanups this season.  Join us for our Topeka Cleanup on June 15, Manhattan on August 27, and our new inaugural event in Kansas City….One KC Cleanup on September 7.  Follow our newsletter, social media, and website to stay up to date. Cleanup Schedule: .  If you wish to join our cleanup newsletter, please let me know and I will add you to it! We are looking for sponsors for these cleanups (they are expensive!), so if your company can participate, please reach out to Jane at  We could use your help! 

Evening fire with Kaw River Guides during a river check in the Flint Hills.

I hope you can find one of these great events that work for your schedule and join us.  As always, if you are planning your own river trip and need any information or assistance (including River Angels), please reach out.  We are happy to help you discover the Kansas River.

May you always have sand in your shoes. See you on the river! 

For the river,

Dawn Buehler

Kansas Riverkeeper

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 31

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 31

Is 2024 Your Year to Discover the Kaw?

Let this be your year to find your outdoor adventure right here in Kansas, literally in your backyard.  We have this beautiful resource with golden braided sandbars for you to explore!  As always, let me now how I can help you discover the Kaw. 

The Kansas River through the Flint Hills.

Well…I did not get my end of year blog post done but I have a good reason.  My little 16-month-old grandson was running through the house!  I got him a toddler tower this year so that I could get him near the kitchen sink to start playing in water!  And yes, it was a big hit!  I look forward to many outdoor adventures to teach this next generation all about the beauty of our world beyond the kitchen window.

Each December, our team meets to discuss planning for the new year. In January, our Board of Directors does the same.  We set goals for the both the Board and the Staff and the fun part is seeing all that we have accomplished from the past year.  While I do enjoy the occasional look back, I am more of a “here in the moment” person.  What am I doing today to move the needle? 

Dawn Buehler, Kansas Riverkeeper, meeting Governor Kelly in celebration of the Clean Water Act.

On Monday, the Kansas Legislator will gavel in and the session will begin.  Expect a great deal of the water conversations to continue in both the Statehouse and with my work with the Kansas Water Authority.  I will be at Governor Kelly’s State of the State Address this week at the Statehouse to listen to her vision for the year.  I hope you will tune in to listen on Wednesday, January 10, 2024 at 6:30 PM.  You can stream the State of the State Address here

We have drafted our river calendar for 2024 and will be announcing it soon.  We are bringing back Beginner Wednesday’s, Members Events and MANY big river cleanups.  We look forward to sharing more details!

Jane, Kim and Dawn planning for the future.

This blog post is going to be short, because I will have much more to report after the Legislative session gets started.  For now, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone that donated to Friends of the Kaw for our end of year giving.  This is one of the most important times of the year for us because it helps to set the foundation for the coming year.  Your gift allows us to focus on the important work of protecting the Kansas River.  Your gift also allows your Kansas Riverkeeper to remain a non-governmental public advocate.  If you would like to give, you can send a check to P.O. Box 1612, Lawrence, KS 66044 or you can donate online. If you would like to see our Wish List for 2024, you can see it on our website.  Thank you for making our work possible!

I wish each one of you a healthy and adventurous 2024!  Will this be your year to discover the Kaw?  Let me know how we can help.  We are your oldest resource for the Kansas River!

May you always have sand in your shoes in the coming year!

For the river,

Dawn Buehler

Kansas Riverkeeper

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 30

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 30

Dumping, Advocacy and Some Good News!

Friends….how can it already be November?  The way that the days and months click on by leaves me wondering where summer went, and where is fall going so quickly? 

L-R: Dawn Buehler, Chair of the Kansas Water Authority; Governor Laura Kelly; and Connie Owen, Director of the Kansas Water Office.

Our busy summer season ended with many public events including Beginner Wednesday’s, Beginner Camping, the signing of the water bills with Governor Kelly and a special trip on the river with Lt. Governor David Toland and his staff from the Kansas Department of Commerce.  We received great news that we have been awarded a grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce to pilot our kayak storage locker design with Sain Works Architecture at the Wamego Access Ramp!  We are thrilled to finally get this project off the ground and we hope to create some videos about the project to use to fundraise to get these installed at every Kansas River Access Ramp! 

e Friends of the Kaw Staff and Board, Kaw River Guides, Lt. Governor David Toland, and Staff of the Kansas Department of Commerce

Fall is officially cleanup season at Friends of the Kaw!  The weather is cooler and our partners and volunteers do not need a hot Kansas summer to remove tires from sandbars.  We had several big cleanups including tires and trash from the area downstream of Seward Access Ramp.  This area has been on our list for a few years and we were waiting for the right conditions (a drought year) to get it done.  We also had a very successful Manhattan Battery Case Cleanup.  Until we have a big flood push on this end of the river, we have removed everything in sight!  We have done this cleanup for 6 years.  I never thought there was enough for 13 cleanup events but here we are.  We know there are likely battery cases in the channel, so we will monitor it for future cleanups…but for now, the river is clean of battery cases!

Tires near Tecumseh on the Kansas River
LynnAnn and Kenney, Kaw River Guides, removing tires from the Kansas River.
So many tires! Greg Z., Kaw River Guide, loading tires into the FOK jon boat.
The AFTER: Kaw River Guides after removing tires from the Kansas River!
Have you ever seen so much plastic in one location? FOK Board Member and Kaw River Guide, Lisa Grossman, was one of a team that removed the plastic from this area during the Manhattan Battery Case Cleanup.

We finished many restoration work days this fall and our team removed so much honeysuckle!  We have the spring season left at Topeka, so be sure to join us to finish out that project.  We have a lot of work ahead at both Lawrence and Eudora, so we hope to see you at those sites in 2024!

The honeysuckle crew at the Topeka project site.

Our Kids About Water classes kicked off in late August and our Youth Education Coordinator has been busy educating the next generation.  There is nothing better than taking kids stream side to learn about water quality testing and seining for macro-invertebrates!  We also just won a grant to expand our program offerings to more students in the watershed.  Stay tuned to learn more about that!

Students learning about macro-invertebrates.

We ended our public river season with our annual Kaw River Guide weekend.  We paddled from Belvue to Topeka on the most gorgeous fall weekend we have had in a long time!  We enjoyed each other’s company, a beautiful river, changing leaves and gorgeous weather.  What a great way to end the season! 

End of season trip with Kaw River Guides!
Gorgeous fall weekend!

I will monitor the river all winter with our Kaw River Guides because pollution does not take the winter off.  Speaking of pollution and dumping, have you seen the news?  Read up here on the story that we participated in about dumping into the Kansas River:  We walked the site and it is heartbreaking to see how much construction debris is now on the sandbar.  It will take just one big rain event to wash all that concrete rubble down the river.  It is common sense to look at it and realize that those small rubbles of concrete are not going to hold the bank.  Why is this still allowed?  I do not think we have to remind all of you, but for anyone else reading, know this:  you cannot dump into the Kansas River and get away with it.  There are too many of us now…we monitor the river for pollution, so don’t even try.  As for this site, we will continue to push for it to be cleaned up. 

Docking Building materials on the Kansas River sandbar, that belongs to the people of Kansas.
Docking Building materials, dumped on the bank of the Kansas River.
Docking Building materials, dumped on the bank of the Kansas River.

As we wind down into winter plans, let me take a moment and say THANK YOU to everyone that donated to our Day of Giving.  It is because of people like you that love our river, that we can continue this work.  I always say that we know how to stretch a dollar a long way – we are the masters of it – but we also have increased expenses as the cost of everything rises.  So, thank you, for supporting our work! 

This coming Sunday, November 5, 2023 is our biggest fundraiser of the year:  Beers of the Kaw!  We use beer from the Kansas River watershed to teach people about our work.  It also happens to be a great fundraiser; however, we need your help.  The only way this is a big fundraiser is to sell out of tickets.  So even if you don’t drink beer, or you can’t join us on Sunday, or you live in another state, please consider buying a ticket to support our work:  You can also bid on items from our Silent Auction because you don’t need to be present ….check out the great items that we have this  year:  Please give special attention to our Fund-A-Need opportunities – these are the major projects that we need help with in 2024!  THANK YOU for your continued support….we are grateful! 

We will spend the winter season planning for the coming year.  We have so many new projects coming your way and we cannot wait to share more soon.  In the meantime, we wish you a peaceful winter season ahead and may you always have sand in your shoes, even in the winter.

For the river,

Dawn Buehler

Kansas Riverkeeper

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 29

Chasing the Channel – Blog No. 29

Spring, Summer and Kansas Water! 

Friends….it was a typical super busy spring and start to the summer at FOK.  If you follow us on social media, then you know!  Cleanups, beginner paddles, student paddle trips, restoration work days, Kids About Water classes, and my work advocating at the legislature.  We also added a couple of new members to our team – Jane Liebert, our new Director of Major Gifts & Planned Giving; and Macy Baumgartner, our new Administrative Coordinator.  These new team members have already hit the ground running and have met many of you at our events.  Macy is the new face of our membership and Jane will work with donors to help them meet their goals for the Kansas River.   We have such a bright future ahead for the Kansas River – thanks to this great team and people like YOU!

Bill, Jane & Dawn – doing a photo session for the next Kansas Travel Magazine for 2024

We had a very successful legislative session for water this year.  By end of April, Governor Kelly signed Senate Substitute for HB 2302, a bipartisan bill that increases funding for the State Water Plan.  The Governor also signed House Bill 2279, a bipartisan bill that requires Kansas’ five Groundwater Management Districts to submit annual reports to the Kansas Legislature with updated water conservation and stabilization plans for groundwater.  You can learn more here:  Senate Substitute for HB 2302:  House Bill 2279:

I also took a trip to Dodge City for the Kansas Water Authority Meeting in June. Following that was the Kansas Geological Survey tour in southwest Kansas. I learned how to measure the wells of the Ogallala Aquifer, a program that is performed every January, usually in very wintry conditions!

Dawn learning how to measure a well of the Ogallala Aquifer in southwest Kansas.

We also were grateful to be invited to the Symphony in the Flint Hills this year as a speaker. I spoke under one of the big tents about the Kansas River and the importance of being a prairie based river. When we protect prairie, we also protect the Kansas River!

Dawn speaking in front of a crowd at Symphony in the Flint Hills

Just released this week, I joined the podcast in my role as Chair of the Kansas Water Authority. Along with Connie Owen, the Director of the Kansas Water Office, we discussed water issues in Kansas. Click below to listen to the podcast and you can learn about the State Water Plan, the role of volunteers and public outreach, and efforts to elevate water funding in the Kansas Legislature. This podcast has it all!  Listen here:

Beginner Wednesday in Topeka – Sandbar Talk

We have many more Beginner Wednesday’s coming up, so be sure to join us for your first Kansas River paddle!  This is one of our most popular events and we love sharing what we know with you so that you can create your own river adventure.  You can see the dates and sign up here:

We also have Beginner Camping – two more events with one in Edwardsville and one in Junction City!

Lastly, and very importantly, Friends of the Kaw is The Merc Co+op‘s, Change for our Community recipient for July! We are honored to be chosen and to represent our wonderful community. Every time you round up at checkout, you’re helping to protect the Kansas River! Thank you so much for your support!

Volunteers spreading seed at our restoration work day in Topeka.

We are getting ready for the fall season for both our Kids About Water (KAWS) Program and our Riverbank Restoration Program….so watch for more details coming soon.  Oh….and Beers of the Kaw is coming up Sunday, November 5, 2023 at Abe & Jake’s Landing in Lawrence!  Make sure you have the date on your calendar.  The tickets will go on sale just after Labor Day!

Water quality education at a summer program. Education does not take the summer off!

Thank you for supporting our work. We are truly grateful to have all of you in partnership! We hope to see you all on the Kansas River soon!

For the river,

Dawn Buehler

Your Kansas Riverkeeper