Arkansas River Lowlands

Sand dunes
Windswept sand dunes south of the Arkansas River in Kearny County.


Arkansas River Lowlands locator mapThe surface of the Arkansas River Lowlands is a relatively flat alluvial plain made up of sand, gravel, and other sediment deposited by a meandering Arkansas River. Over the last 10 million years, the river has flowed into the state from high in the Rockies, where its source is fed by runoff from rain and snowmelt.

Very little water is added to the river as it crosses the High Plains in Kansas and much of the river water eventually seeps into the ground or evaporates. In places where the groundwater is close to the surface, it interacts with the river to help keep the river supplied with water. As groundwater levels have fallen in recent years, however, the river in parts of western Kansas is dry much of the time. Streams flowing into the Arkansas River in central and eastern Kansas add water back in.

In much of the region away from the riverbed, the sediment is topped with soil, which is good for farming. Some places, especially south of the river, are covered with sand dunes formed by wind and water. A lot of the dunes are now inactive—covered with grass and other vegetation—which keeps the sand from shifting around.

Although most Kansas streams are privately owned, the Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas rivers are open to the public between the high water marks on each bank, outlined by the debris left by rising water. Most land beyond that is private and requires landowner permission to access. Public access points on the river can be found through the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism's Rivers and Streams Access website.

Other points of interest in the Arkansas River Lowlands region include Cheyenne Bottoms north of Great Bend and Pawnee Rock west of Great Bend in Barton County; Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Stafford County; and Sand Hills State Park in Reno County northeast of Hutchinson.

In Kansas, the name of the river and region are pronounced Ar-Kansas. So is the town of Arkansas City, Kansas, but the state is still known as Ar-kansaw.





Buchanan, R., and McCauley, J. R., 2010, Roadside Kansas: A Traveler's Guide to its Geology and Landmarks: Lawrence, Kansas, University Press of Kansas, 392 p.

GeoFacts: Arkansas River Lowlands (pdf)