For 30 years, former Johnson County, Kansas Manager Hannes Zacharias wanted to kayak the entirety of the Arkansas River -- from Colorado all the way to New Orleans.
He’s finally doing it, but there’s one problem -- a big stretch in Western Kansas is completely dry.
“It's being totally consumed in this area by irrigation. That's not a value judgment, that's just a statement of fact,” Zacharias said. “It does disappoint me that there’s no streamflow past Deerfield… until it resurrects itself around the Hutchinson, Wichita area.”
However, the lack of water didn’t stop Zacharias’ trip. A stranger, Brian Shirley of Dodge City, read about Hannes journey on Facebook and offered to help him navigate the dry riverbed on his all-terrain vehicle.
"An ATV is, unfortunately, on this portion of the river, is about all you can use,” Shirley said. “A boat doesn't do you much good.”
ATVing has become popular on the Arkansas. On July 4th, 150 vehicles are expected to drive along it between Garden City and Dodge City in a 17th annual “river run.”
Hannes' ATV trek is actually the second portion of his trip that he’s done outside of his Kayak. Near Lakin, he did a stretch riding a horse that galloped and swam through shallow waters.
One of Hannes' motivations for the trip is to raise awareness about the Arkansas River. He says for its scale -- the sixth largest in the United States -- it gets short shrift.
You can follow Hannes along his adventure on his Facebook page. He expects to arrive at the Gulf of Mexico in September.
For anyone inspired by his journey, Hannes has a couple of pieces of advice.
“Learn what other people have down,” Hannes said. “Prepare and plan for it … this is a river that can change on you, so safety is not something to be ignored."