Arkansas River Water Trail

The Arkansas River from Great Bend, Kansas to the Kansas/Oklahoma border provides 192 miles of scenic water trail and riparian corridor wildlife habitat. The river meanders through the expansive prairie, rich pastures, and farmland, passing along many cities and small towns as it goes.

photo: The Wichita skyline from Lincoln Street.

Length: 192.00 miles
Loop Trail? No
Type: National Water Trails System
Agency: State
Entry Fee? No
     Some special ordinances exist within city limits (i.e. no discharge of firearms, no camping) that do not apply to the entire trail. When possible, these ordinances are posted at the access sites and on public outreach materials. Public use and access to t

Parking Fee? No

Allowed Uses:

Boating, Motorized
Boating, non-motorized: Canoeing
Boating, non-motorized: Kayaking
Boating, non-motorized: Rafting
Heritage and History
Wildlife Observation

See more details.


Location: The Arkansas River from Great Bend, Kansas to the Kansas/Oklahoma border
State(s): Kansas
Counties: Barton, Rice, Reno, Sedgwick, Sumner, Cowley
Longitude: -98.76587
Latitude: 38.35205

Driving Directions

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


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. Beginning at Great Bend, the flows of the river begin to reach seasonal flows sufficient for paddling. By nature, prairie streams and rivers are prone to drought and flooding with varied seasonal precipitation.

Additional Details

Primary Surface: Not Available
Secondary Surface: Rock, smooth
Water, still

Elevation Low Point: Not Available
Elevation High Point: Not Available
Elevation Gain (cumulative): Not Available

Year Designated:

Supporting Webpages and Documents

Brochure: Corridor Access Plan
Map: Simple map of the Water Trail
Website: Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams

Contact Information

For more information and current conditions, contact the trail manager (listed below). For questions, suggestions, and corrections to information listed on the website, contact American Trails.

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]



A family canoes on the Arkansas River.

A family canoes on the Arkansas River.


Arkansas River from Great Bend to Alden 33 miles

My 33 mile over night trip on the Arkansas River Trail was good, bad and in between. The wildlife seen on the river included an eagle, several owls, many deer and an adorable line of baby ducks. There were plenty of sand beaches for camping. I hammock camped but will tent camp next time due to availability of flat sand bars. the run down the river was somewhat challenging due to new debris ( downed trees) in the river from this years extensive flooding. I also took the cheapest kayak you can buy due to its ability to carry gear vs my 20 year old style white water kayak. If you have little to no experience floating rivers I would recommend taking a kayak that is easily maneuverable. I also recommend you get a little experience before attempting to float this river. These recommendations are based on the river conditions I floated under. You can find conditions of the river on a usgs site Great Bend KS.

Conditions on June 10th when I entered the river: water level gauge 4.6 feet. Discharge was 700 cubic feet per second. The river at that water level will create many forks in the river, with most reconnecting back to the main river but some ending in a dead end. I finally reached a turn in the river a couple miles before the first Alden bridge access point where the current was too strong for my cheap kayak to paddle across and it pulled me and the kayak into it which forced me to try and hit a gap of about 4 feet in between a downed tree along the bank and another tree mostly sunk in the water except for 2 large branches sticking out. I flipped and struggled to get to the bank with my Kayak due to the fast current and deepness of the water there. I assessed my situation from that point and decided that the risk was maybe a little too much for me in that particular kayak. The kayak I had was very stable but not maneuverable.

When I got to the first Alden bridge access point I started to walk up to the road I was lucky enough to arrive the same time the land owner was pulling up in his truck. Great guy, Roy ( last name eludes me). He offered to haul me and my kayak to the coop in Alden where I could wait for my ride. Thank you Roy and the crew at the coop for being so accommodating. Learned from these people that people are taking 4 wheelers and doing other illegal stuff through these access points and causing damage to their properties, I hope these problems get resolved so we do not lose the ability to float this river. Driving home back to KC I realized that I am not done with this river, I will be back with my new knowledge of the river and a better kayak. Stay Calm and Float On.

June 14, 2019



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