National Recreation Trails Database

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Arkansas River Water Trail

Location The Arkansas River from Great Bend, Kansas to the Kansas/Oklahoma border
State(s) Kansas
Counties Barton, Rice, Reno, Sedgwick, Sumner, Cowley
Type National Water Trails System
Length 192.00 Miles / 308.99 Km Loop Trail? No
Allowed Uses Boating, Motorized
Boating, non-motorized: Canoeing
Boating, non-motorized: Kayaking
Boating, non-motorized: Rafting
Heritage and History
Wildlife Observation
Agency State
Entry Fee? No Parking Fee? No




photo: The Wichita skyline from Lincoln Street.
The Wichita skyline from Lincoln Street.

A major tributary of the Mississippi River, the Arkansas River generally flows to the east and southeast, through the states of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. At 1,469 miles long, it is the sixth longest river in the United States and the second-longest tributary in the Mississippi-Missouri system. The earliest account of this river is to be found in the narratives of the Coronado Expedition of 1540-1541.

Rich with history, the Arkansas River is overflowing with educational and outdoor recreational opportunities. From scenic prairie views to sport fishing, from kayaking to duck and goose hunting, the Arkansas provides something exciting to visitors of all ages and interests.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism (KDWPT), through mutual agreements with multiple parties, have developed this 192 miles of river water trail into a highly sought-after destination for adventure. KDWPT has spent more than 20 years developing access ramps, enhancing conservation programs and creating awareness of the water trail. Through the many partnerships that have been formed, this river water trail thrives because of the extensive recreation, education and restoration activities that take place. You can find more details about these activities later in this application.

While the Arkansas River in Kansas stretches from the Colorado border, the western-most portion of the river rarely holds enough water to navigate. Begin (Continued...)


Trail Mission Statement

The mission of the Arkansas River Water Trail is to inspire people and communities to conserve and protect the history and natural diversity of the Arkansas River, and to foster opportunities for recreation and education.


Recreation Opportunities

The Arkansas River Water Trail route currently consists of 22 established river access points, providing trip lengths from just over 1 mile that could be easily paddled in an evening, to more th
an 20 miles paddled with an overnight camp between two days. A listing of suggested trips provides a brief description of the landscape, natural history, travel time and difficulty of each trip, with a starting and ending point. Several gaps in access do exist, but additional sites are planned (Continued...)



Several opportunities and outreach programs are in place surrounding the Arkansas River Water Trail. Facilities such as the WATER Center and Exploration Place, NGOs such as the Arkansas River Coalition, and groups such as Wichita Clean Streams provide public outreach programming on water resources, cultural heritage, boating skills and outdoor ethics. The annual Wichita Riverfest has been held on the banks of the Arkansas River in downtown Wichita every year since 1972, and is the largest comm (Continued...)



Arkansas River Trash Roundup

The City of Wichita also sponsors and supports the Arkansas River Trash Roundup, an event that has involved thousands of volunteers and removed more than 22 tons of trash and debris from the river in Wichita since 2005. In 2015, over 800 volunteers attended and removed 365 bags of trash, weighing nearly 2 tons. The annual Trash roundup also involves several corporate and NGO sponsors, including Cargill, a company which provides food, agriculture, fina (Continued...)


Community Support

The Arkansas River Water trail passes through and flows along seventeen communities, ranging in size from very small to the largest city in Kansas. The cities below continue to provide and support public access to the water trail.

Great Bend

Located near one of the largest wetlands of the midwest, Great Bend has plenty to offer visitors. Birders, hunters, and nature lovers have some of the most unique wildlife viewing opportunities at Cheyenne Bottoms and at Quivi (Continued...)


Public Information

Access Site Kiosks: Westar Energy

Westar Energy has been a successful and long-time partner of conservation projects in the state of Kansas. Avid supporters of the Kansas River Trail, Westar has again committed the same level of support to the Arkansas River Water Trail, in that they are willing to provide materials and volunteer labor to build wooden sign kiosks for access points.

It is also important to Westar to give something back to the people they serve. Throu (Continued...)


Trail Maintenance

Memorandums of Understanding
Access sites are operated and maintained by the communities and landowners. Because the sites are open to the public and may have facilities and improvements such as parking, boat ramps, restrooms and trash receptacles, Memorandums of Understanding are in place to protect the investments and provide responsibility for maintenance long-term at each site. For example, in the city of Wichita, access sites are maintained and repaired by the city’s public works d (Continued...)



The Arkansas River Corridor Access Plan

In 2007, a group of communities along the river formed a steering committee to fund research and create a long-term water trail plan called the “Arkansas River Corridor Access Plan,” the vision of which is “To establish the Arkansas River as a premiere recreational amenity for the state and for the region.” In creating this plan, extensive research was done on flows, water levels and access to the river, and multiple public meetings (Continued...)

Visitor Information

Seasonal Information

Date Opens: 1/1 - Date Closes: 12/31

Time Opens: Not Available - Time Closes: Not Available


Please see attached documents for GPS locations and directions to each of the access points along the trail.


Additional Information

Width: 0 inches.

Primary Surface: Not Available

Secondary Surface: Rock, smooth
Water, still

Average Grade: 0%

Elevation Low Point: Not Available

Elevation High Point: Not Available

Year Designated: 2016

Date Last Updated: 03/29/2021


Contact Information

Trail Management:
Jeff Conley
Fisheries Program Specialist
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism
512 SE 25th Ave.
Pratt , KS 67570
(620) 672-0786
[email protected]


Related Webpages and Documents

Title Type Link
Corridor Access Plan Brochure View/Download
Simple map of the Water Trail Map View/Download
A family canoes on the Arkansas River. Photo View/Download
Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams Website View/Download



Do you see a problem with this trail data? Contact either the trail manager (listed above) or email [email protected].


NOTE: The information on this web site and/or in this database is provided for the convenience of the public, trail managers, organizations, elected officials, etc. Neither the National Park Service, the USDA Forest Service, nor American Trails can guarantee that the information is accurate. Trail users are urged to inquire locally about weather, trail conditions, trail characteristics, fees, and regulations! The information on this web site and/or in this database should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of the U.S. Government, and any mention of trade names, commercial products, or businesses does not constitute their endorsement by the U.S. Government.



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Application instructions can be found on the NWTS site, which provides information and documents required for new applications. You may use this as a checklist to gather data for the online application. Basic information is entered on the application website, and supporting materials (maps, photos, etc.) can be uploaded but must be in standard electronic formats.

This application process is for trails on state, local, or private land, OR on federal land (outside the US Department of Agriculture). If your water trail is on National Forest, National Grassland, or other land managed by the Department of Agriculture, you should contact the US Forest Service National Recreation Trails Program.

This online application and the NRT database are hosted and maintained by American Trails.