By Topeka Capital-Journal, Sept. 29
Gov. Sam Brownback didn’t exactly take a day off Thursday to float, or paddle, along a stretch of the Kansas River — he was acting in his official capacity to draw attention to the recreational opportunities the river offers — but it wouldn’t qualify as one of the most taxing days he has endured since being elected in 2010, either.
More people, Kansans and visitors from other states and countries, should follow Brownback’s lead.
When most people in this state think about getting out and spending some time on the water, they’re considering visiting one of Kansas’ numerous lakes. That’s always a fine idea, and there are enough lakes in northeast Kansas and across the state to meet everyone’s needs, whether they want to fish, ski, float, paddle or just camp somewhere away from the concrete, asphalt and fumes. The Kansas River, though, in an underused asset that deserves more attention than it is getting, despite efforts to spread word of the opportunities it presents for much of the year.
Brownback and his guide, Brian Leaders, of the National Park Service, led a group of about 100 people in canoes and kayaks along a 10-mile stretch of the river between Wamego and Belvue. The river flows from a point near Junction City where the Republican and Smoky Hill rivers merge all the way east to the Missouri River, a trip of 170 miles.
The Kansas River has its danger points, including the weir here in Topeka that directs river water to an intake for the municipal water system, but they can be avoided, or managed, by responsible boaters. A portage is mandatory for boats approaching the Topeka weir, and there are numerous boat ramps that give canoeists exist points if they desire to bypass some stretches of the river.
The ramp at Belvue was dedicated Thursday upon arrival of the flotilla of canoes and kayaks. Mike Calwell, one of the founding members of Friends of the Kaw, which helped build many of the ramps, says he “fell in love” with the Kansas River and figured other people could, too.
They probably would if they spent some time on it.
If Brownback’s Thursday excursion encourages more Kansans to view the Kansas River as a recreational destination, he should consider it a good day at the office.