Arkansas River reopens for recreational activities

The Arkansas River through downtown Wichita has been reopened to recreational activity after being closed for two weeks because of high water.

“The kayakers are free to kayak and the canoers are free to canoe,” said Doug Kupper, the city’s park and recreation director.

Although the flow rate is still pretty high – 2,000 cubic feet per minute, well above the typical rate of 300 feet per minute – water has retreated to within the riverbanks and there is plenty of room for kayakers and canoers to get under bridges.

“We got downtown back in order just in time for BlackTop Nationals,” which is expected to draw 150,000 people or more to the city this weekend, Kupper said.

City officials closed the river to recreational activity on Aug. 9 because the water was so high and moving so fast.

“Use the river to your skill levels,” Kupper said. “We think it is ready for recreational activities.”

Water is still flowing under I-235 “at a pretty good clip,” he said, creating whitewater conditions.

“It’s not very often that our world-class kayakers have an opportunity to practice their skills within the city limits of Wichita,” Kupper said.

Typically, he said, they have to go to Colorado for the flow rates they want.

Kayakers and canoers should stay between Kellogg and 21st Street on the river, Kupper said. The high water damaged the boat passage at the Lincoln Street dam, so a crew will be closing the bypass Saturday or Monday for repairs.

“We don’t want people getting caught up” in dangerous currents below the dam, Kupper said.

Officials won’t know how long the repairs will take until they know exactly what’s wrong, he said.

The Arkansas should be back to its normal pool elevation through downtown by Saturday afternoon, said Scott Lindebak, storm water division manager for the city’s public works department, in a statement.

Crews were making repairs to the fish ladders in the dam on Friday, as well as cleaning out debris left behind by the high waters.