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State Submerged Resources > Kansas


Major rivers flowing through Kansas include the Arkansas River, Kansas River, Missouri River, Republican River, and Smokey Hill River. The state's major lakes are artificial and include Cheney Reservoir and Tuttle Creek Reservoir. All told, about 460 square miles (less than 1%) of this land-locked Midwestern state are covered in water. The importance of those waters to the state's commerce is illustrated on the state flag by inclusion of a steamboat.

What is Kansas' maritime history?

The Indians used canoes on the rivers for transportation and the early French fur traders modified their pirogues to accommodate the shallow rivers. Settlers to the area mostly used flatboats, barges and ferryboats, while keelboats and steamboats were used on navigable rivers. During the 19th century, regular service by steamboat connected Kansas City to Lawrence with occasional service to Topeka and Fort Riley.

What sites are underwater?

Navigating shallow rivers was difficult, however, and many boats grounded, caught on snags, wrecked and sank.

One unlucky boat on the Missouri River near Kansas City was the steamboat Arabia that sank fully loaded in 1856. Over time, the channel of the river changed and the wreck of the Arabia became covered with soil and land-locked. When the wreck was discovered in 1987, it was more than one-half mile from the river's edge and buried 45 feet underground beneath a Kansas cornfield. The site was excavated and its remains and cargo are exhibited at the Steamboat Arabia Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.

In addition to shipwrecks, the remnants of a number of 20th century towns lie submerged beneath the waters of Tuttle Creek Reservoir.

Who takes care of Kansas's underwater archeological sites?

The Kansas State Historical Society and the State Archeologist are charged with promoting the protection of the state's archeological resources. The Antiquities Commission oversees the permitting process for conducting archeological research on state lands.

What permits do I need to study shipwrecks?

The Antiquities Commission grants permits to educational institutions, research institutions, public museums, or nonprofit corporations organized for scientific and research purposes. The Commission issues permits only after receiving and approving a formal written request detailing the purposes of the proposed investigation, the location in which it is to be conducted, the sponsoring agency, and the professional personnel to be in charge. Applicants must obtain permits before excavating, removing materials, or otherwise investigating sites.

What laws concern underwater archeology in Kansas?

The Kansas Historic Preservation Act is codified at Kansas Statutes Annotated 75-2715, et seq. The Kansas Antiquities Act can be found at Kansas Statutes Annotated 74-5401, et seq. Both laws are accessible on the State's legislative search engine.

These laws emphasize that the historical, architectural, archeological and cultural heritage of Kansas is an important asset of the state and that its preservation and maintenance are among the highest priorities of the government. It is in the interest of the state to engage in a comprehensive program of historic preservation and foster and promote the conservation and use of historic property for the education, inspiration, pleasure, and enrichment of the citizens of Kansas.