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Lifepoints Adventure Grant: Paddling the Kaw

January 18, 2017

Lifepoints Adventure Grant: Paddling the Kaw

Over the summer our Lifepoints Adventure Grant winners took it upon themselves not just to have the trip of their dreams, but to encourage others in their local community to get out there and share the experience with them. Despite being nestled in urban Kansas, they found days worth of fun right in their backyard, that was accessible for a variety of skill levels and affordable.

Here’s what Frank Bouchard & Kerry Regan had to say about what it meant to get their local community involved in their mission to paddle of the Kaw River.

The challenge: to get people outdoors and promote outdoor adventure culture in the most unlikely of places. Kansas isn’t overwhelmed with accessible nature. It’s 97% privately owned. Where endless vistas of grass prairies once existed, there are now crop fields or pastures. So how were we going to convince Kansans to get outside and explore nature?

The Kaw River is one of the last hold-outs. A thin ribbon of wilderness that winds through the most populated region of the state. While the law considers most rivers to be private property and prohibits kayakers and canoeists from paddling, the Kaw is public and free to everyone. It stretches 172 miles from Junction City to Kansas City. It was the perfect place to engage the public and draw people out into the hidden wilds of Kansas.

When we found out we were recipients of the Picky Bars Lifepoints Adventure Grant, we penned in “Paddle the Kaw” for every weekend in August. We began in Junction City and each successive weekend we would pick up where we left off the weekend before until we had paddled every mile in our Riot Polarity tandem kayak (purchased with the grant).

But paddling the river was only half of what we wanted to accomplish. Each weekend we opened our paddle to the community and led groups down the river. We organized shuttles and even used part of the grant to rent kayaks for people that didn’t have their own. The most successful of these public trips was the segment from the city of Manhattan to St. George for which we had twenty paddlers on the river. Getting outside can be intimidating for people that aren’t used to it. And exploring is always more fun with friends. Through websites like Meetup, we were able to find people that wanted to get outside but weren’t confident doing so without a group. In the process we inspired others to go out on their own paddle trips.

The Kaw truly is one of the last wild places in Kansas. We spent nights primitive camping on sandy islands watching beautiful sunsets. We encountered wildlife. We weathered storms. In total, we spent eight days and four nights on the river. And we shared these experiences with 25 people who were daring enough to join us. What we found is that wild places exist everywhere, even Kansas. You don’t need two weeks of vacation and a pricey plane ticket to find them. They can be found in a weekend and for free. Check out some of our other local adventures on a shoestring at our blog, The Outdoor Voice.

If you live in Kansas, we highly recommend that you take a weekend at some point and paddle a section of this river. You’ll see a part of the state that’s very different from what you’re used to. Friends of the Kaw maintains a very useful website and includes a detailed map of river access points, historical information, and a tool to report pollution. The FOTK also organizes paddle trips and funds boat ramps and other facilities at access points.

We’d like to thank Frank and Kerry for not only sharing their story, but for sharing the experience with their community as well. Lifepoints has always been about getting out there, pushing limits, and experiencing the world around us, and we’re thrilled to have been part of their Kaw Paddle. That’s what it’s all about!

ANNNND, we’re double thrilled to announce that Lifepoints Adventure Grants will be back again this year! Look for application info around mid-March.

Start brainstorming all those dreamy summer plans friends, we’re ready to get out there with ya.