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Neil Becker

"Magnificent old oak" photo by Neil Becker

The Blue River begins its life at the confluence of two creeks in southern Johnson County, Kansas and enters Missouri just south of MO150 highway. It meanders in a northeasterly direction through south and east Kansas City until it meets the Missouri River near Sugar Creek.

We Kansas Citians are blessed with the beauty of this river and all the surrounding woodlands, most especially the southern portions and north to where it runs through Swope Park. Blue River Road follows the river south from the park all the way to Blue Ridge Road (about 131st Street). For most of the way, the drive is under a canopy of green with stretches of bluffs on the left and an occasional glimpse of the river on the right. (It should be noted that several years ago a collapsed road caused Blue River Road to be closed between Bannister Road. and about 105th Street and between Highway 71 and Prospect Avenue. Thus far, the city has not announced any immediate plans to repair either section).

South of Bannister Road many miles of hiking and biking trails have been established, both in the lowlands and along the hillsides above the buffs. They are mostly in wooded areas where a wide variety of flora and fauna can be observed, especially if the hiker is quiet and has a sharp eye. The casual hiker or biker can often be surprised with something new and, perhaps, unusual. (My wife recently reported that she spotted a pair of Bald Eagles in a tree overlooking the large pond near Blue River and Red Bridge Roads).

My love for the area dates back to my childhood when my parents would take me and my brothers hiking and fishing and sometimes fossil hunting along the many limestone bluffs that loom over Blue River Road. As I got older, canoe trips were added to the mix. One year, about 1960, a late February thaw resulted in high water in the river. My younger brother and I, along with two other friends in a second canoe, rode some fast and turbulent melt-water about 2 or 3 miles, starting north from Blue Ridge Road. My canoe turned over at a particularly wicked turn and snag, reminding us that no matter how warm the air felt, the water in February was always frigid.

Over the past few years I have walked every trail along the southern portions of the Blue River, both those created by tireless volunteers and many of the ones by left by deer and other creatures. Spring was always my favorite time to walk; everything was fresh and new, with wildflowers everywhere. Each season has its own delights - even winter. I truly loved the solitude and spiritual connection I found every time I spent time in the woodlands that surrounded the Blue River.

Though I have never seen the water in the Blue River an actual “blue,” I believe that it is now much clearer than the murky brown color I recall from my earlier years. The efforts of Renew the Blue and other organizations have done much in recent years to make our river clean and more enjoyable.

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