Wakarusa River

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The Wakarusa River is a tributary of the Kansas River, approximately 50 mi (80 km) long, in eastern Kansas in the United States. It drains an agricultural area of rolling limestone hills south of Topeka and Lawrence.

Description

It rises in several branches southwest of Topeka. The main branch rises on the Wabaunsee-Shawnee county line, approximately 10 mi (16 km) southwest of Topeka and flows east. The South Branch rises in eastern Wabaunsee County, approximately 15 mi (24 km) southwest of Topeka and flows ENE, joining the main branch south of Topeka. The main branch flows generally east, passing south of Lawrence. It joins the Kansas from the south at Eudora, approximately 8 mi (13 km) east of Lawrence. It is impounded by Clinton Dam approximately 3 mi (5 km) southwest of Lawrence to form Clinton Lake.

The river is known for its gentle current that winds through river-level outcropping rocks, primary of Pennsylvanian limestone. The area of the river was inhabited by mainy different Native American tribes, including the Kansa and Osage Nation in the 18th century. The name of the river comes from a Kansa phrase meaning "river of big weeds." In the early 19th century, after the U.S. acquired the area, the Shawnee were relocated into the area. During the days of the Kansas Territory, the limestone outcroppings of the river gave significant difficulties to early white emigrants attempting to ford the stream in their wagons. Often wagons were dismantled, lowered down the limestone beds, towed across, then lifted by rope to the opposing bank. Several Shawnee created ferry operations on the river in the 1850s, including Bluejacket's Ferry near Sebastian. The river's gentle current and scenic banks made it an early recreation spot for citizens of Lawrence (which was originally called "Wakarusa").

The river once had extensive wetland riparian habitat, much of which has been reclaimed over the last century for cultivation and other uses. Clinton Dam, built in 1971 to reduce seasonal spring flooding, greatly reduced the replenishment of wetlands below the dam. A remaining tract of 600 acres (2.4 km²), the Haskell-Baker Wetlands, is located south of Lawrence.

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