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