Blue River Action Plan
Kansas City is home to amazing natural resources that provide a source of pride and sense of place to people throughout the nine-county metropolitan area. Water resources, creeks, streams, and rivers, have played a critical role in defining its development and character.
The Blue River flows 42 miles northeast from its rural, undeveloped headwaters in Johnson County, Kansas through underserved communities and post-industrial stretches in Jackson County, Mo. and, finally, into the Missouri River, the source of the city’s drinking water.
The Blue River watershed is the largest in the city, covering 270 square miles and acting as home to half a million people. It is one of 20 Urban Waters Federal Partnership locations across the United States.
Water quality is poor in the Blue River and its three major tributaries, which are 303(d) listed streams, meaning they do not meet federal standards. According to the US Geological Survey, water quality is influenced by urbanization, point-source discharges, illegal dumping, urban run-off, physical stream conditions, and complex water-quality processes. Following a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency, Kansas City, Mo. is under a Federal Consent Decree for using combined sewers to illegally dump wastewater into the Blue River. Much of the river is invisible to its neighbors in disinvested communities on the eastern side of the city, who are faced with disproportionate social and environmental challenges.
The Blue River Action Plan summarizes and prioritizes decades of work to restore the health of the watershed, including the goals of four regional plans: Mid-America Regional Council’s MetroGreen Plan, KC Water’s Combined Sewer Overflow Plan, the Upper Blue River Watershed Plan, and Kansas City WildLands’ Conservation Opportunity Action Plan.
Heartland Conservation Alliance (HCA) and others are actively working to improve the health of this watershed by focusing resources in eight Action Areas that represent varying geographic areas and types of habitat. In each Action Area, this Plan outlines current and potential conservation projects of varying scale and type within the watershed.
Blue River Action Plan - Action Areas
Total Area: 17,828 acres
Restoration Area: 3,000 acres
Habitat: Ephemeral Streams
Focal Species: Redbelly Snake
Total Area: 993 acres
Restoration Area: 40 acres
Habitat: Healthy riparian
corridor and floodplain
Focal Species: PawPaw
Restoration Area: 60 acres
Habitat: Bottomland forest and wetland
Focal Species: American Beaver
Restoration Area: 10 acres
Focal Species: Monarch Butterfly
Total Area: 1,738 acres
Restoration Area: 25 acres
Habitat: Upland Woodland
Focal Species: Prothonotary Warbler
Restoration Area: 65 acres
Habitat: Urban Forest
Focal Species: Ruby throated hummingbird
Restoration Area: 35 acres
Habitat: Bottomland woodland
Focal Species: Tri-color bats
Restoration Area: 65 acres
Habitat: Oxbow wetland
and riparian forest
Focal Species: Red-Eared Slider
In each Action Area, we highlight a plant or animal that is native to this region, which relies on key habitats to thrive. By improving the health of the Action Area, we can protect these focal species and help them thrive.
While each Action Area holds many types of habitat, the Blue River Action Plan focuses restoration and conservation on one keystone habitat that dominates each Area.
To get involved in your community, please reach out to us at or call us at 816-759-7305, ext. 1148.
Photos courtesy of the Heartland Conservation Alliance, Pat Whalen, Michael Price, Dan Krall,
Forrest Keeling Nursery, Sarah Hemme, Missouri Department of Conservation, Abigail Derby-Lewis,
Tal Pipkin/Maccaulay Library, frankfichtmueller/123RF, Brian Lasenby/123RF,