Rivers have always been an important part of civilization. Though we now cross a bridge without hesitation, the river was- and still is- at the core of our livelihoods. In the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area we are lucky enough to have several vitally important and historically interesting rivers, including the Kansas and Missouri. These rivers guided Lewis and Clark, hydrated Civil War soldiers, and transported goods to the brave pioneers moving west for a better life. They founded great cities and with those cities, amazing histories were portrayed along side. Rivers provide us a moment to pause and reflect on nature, but also, provides us stories of our past. Explore Freedom’s Frontier to find more stories of the rivers, or just relax on a kayak on one of our lakes.
Located in the Kansas City River Market District, the Steamboat Arabia Museum is a fascinating introduction to prairie life through a perfectly preserved archaeological lens. After sinking in 1856, the steamboat was forgotten until the boat and its contents were rediscovered in 1991. Most interesting, because of the change in river patterns, the boat was located half a mile from the river, 45 feet below ground with no oxygen present. The artifacts are an impeccably preserved time capsule. The best part of this museum is the visitor’s ability to view the preservation lab at work. There, visitors can ask lab technicians about the preservation process and view processing artifacts.
Overlooking the Delaware Crossing of the Kansas River, Grinter Place is a Kansas Historic Site treasure. The oldest home in Wyandotte County, Moses Grinter worked as a successful ferryman on the Santa Fe Trail. Most interesting though is not Moses’ story, but his wife Anna, a Delaware Indian. In a time of Indian removal, Anna became one of 25 Native women to become Kansas’s citizens with statehood. Joe Brentano, site administrator, offers a delightful tour to visitors that discuss frontier life and Native American populations in the area.
Located at the connecting point of the Missouri and Kansas rivers, the Lewis and Clark Historic Park features activities for visitors of all ages and interest. The site includes an open-air education exhibit of Lewis and Clark’s three day stop at KAW point, a handicap accessible boardwalk, gravel walking and biking trails along the river, and boat ramp and docking area. Not to be forgotten, the park also offers a breathtaking view of downtown Kansas City.
Outside of the amazing historical sites, if you are interested in traveling down the river yourself, consider renting a canoe, kayak or raft. There are many great locations in Kansas City and the surrounding areas to rent from. Two rentals with great prices, quality service, and options on time and distance are the River Run Rentals and KC on the Current.
In addition, the Friends of the KAW, located in Lawrence, KS, offer great volunteer opportunities for adults and children of all ages in and around the Kansas River. They are always looking for fresh faces to help in their effort to clean up the Kansas River.