Tag Archives: Marais des Cygnes River

Smithsonian Water/Ways exhibit is now traveling Kansas #thinkwater

None of us can live without water, and a new traveling Smithsonian Institution exhibit examines the role that water plays in our lives. Water/Ways is part of Museum on Main Street, a program that brings big topics to smaller towns all over the United States.

The Smithsonian Institution’s traveling Water/Ways exhibit is as beautiful as it is informative.

Water/Ways is currently traveling through Kansas, Alabama, Tennessee and Virginia. It’s a beautiful hands-on exhibit that looks at all of the ways we need, use, and interact with water. Water decides where we live, what we grow, and even our recreation and spiritual activities. Too much or too little water can be devastating.

Learn things you might not have known about water. Endorheic watersheds are made of water that drains to a basin instead of a river or the ocean.

In Kansas, we’re constantly thinking about water. We get too much rain. We don’t get enough. Our rivers are up. Our water supply is low. Our water mains break. Our reservoirs silt up. Zebra mussels threaten our water towers. We worry we’ll deplete our aquifers.

The rest of the world is having conversations about these things. too.

This display helps you understand how much water it takes to produce everyday things, like apples, blue jeans, and cars.

The Water/Ways exhibit looks at where we find water on earth and how human activity impacts our water resources. Learn how much water it takes to grow an apple, built a car, or produce a pair of blue jeans. Try your hand at developing good water policies that protect our water supply while supporting cities AND agriculture. [Hint: It’s super hard.] Discover the water challenges faced by people, plants, and animals around the globe, and how living things have adapted to them.

Try your hand at creating public policy that will both protect the water supply AND meet water demands.

It’s a small but powerful exhibit.

In addition to the traveling Water/Ways exhibit, the Kansas Humanities Council has also awarded grants to numerous sites around the state to tell their own water story. [Disclaimer: The Old Depot Museum, where I work, received one of these grants!] The local stories are amazing and demonstrate how our own state can have very diverse water experiences.

The Smithsonian exhibit is on display at the Eudora Community Museum through August 6. If you can’t make it to Eudora in time, you can catch the exhibit in other Kansas locations through 2018.

There are also three local stories being told during the summer of 2017:

At the Mercy of the Kaw: Eudora’s Relationship with Water,” the story of Eudora’s relationship with the Kansas River (Eudora Community Museum, Eudora, Kansas)

Crossings: Getting Over, Around, and Through Water in Franklin County,” the story of the love/hate relationship between Franklin County and the Marais des Cygnes River (Old Depot Museum, Ottawa, Kansas)

Dam, That Took a Long Time,” the story of the construction of Wyandotte County Lake and Dam (Mr. and Mrs. F.L. Schlagle Library and Environmental Learning Center, Kansas City, Kansas)

Upcoming local stories look at floods, failed canals, desegregating swimming pools, and artesian wells.

This is a powerful traveling exhibit and worth seeking out before it leaves the state.

Sunday Snapshot: Bridging the Marais des Cygnes River

Kansas is ablaze with prairie fires right now as the farmers and ranchers are preparing their fields for rebirth. Unfortunately for my asthmatic self, I’m stuck inside instead of trying my hand at paying homage to photographers like Larry Schwarm or Dave Leiker by creating a pastiche of their amazing images of this prairie rite of passage. Taking pity, Jim took me for a quick ride around town so I could escape the house.

We drove through Hope Cemetery, which was hazy with prairie fire smoke.

That haze in the background at Hope Cemetery isn't fog. It's smoke blowing in from the prairie fires.

That haze in the background at Hope Cemetery isn’t fog. It’s smoke blowing in from the prairie fires.

And then, for the first time, we followed the gravel road past the cemetery, where we found a pretty view of the Marais des Cygnes River.

An old railroad bridge crosses the Marais Des Cygnes River west of Ottawa.

An old railroad bridge crosses the Marais des Cygnes River west of Ottawa.

The Marais Des Cygnes River west of Ottawa.

The Marais des Cygnes River west of Ottawa.

The forecast calls for thunderstorms this week, which will wash away the smoke. In the meanwhile, I’m hiding in the house again.

Sunday Snapshot: Ottawa Cottonwood Tree

Cottonwood Tree, Ottawa, Kansas

A large cottonwood tree stands in a pocket of  land between K-68 and the Marais des Cygnes River.

There is an empty pocket of land in the middle of Ottawa, Kansas, that was once filled with farms and houses. A series of floods cleared away the neighborhoods. Despite the installation of a levy system, this area between K-68 and the Marais des Cygnes River remains barren, allowing a lone cottonwood tree, the official state tree of Kansas, to anchor its old roots and spread its leaves to the sun.