Riparian zones

Riparian zone along Cimarron River, Grant County.
Riparian zone along Cimarron River, Grant County.


Riparian zones are areas of environmental transition between bodies of water—mainly rivers and creeks in Kansas—and the upland—land away from water bodies. The soil, vegetation, and wildlife habitat in a riparian zone is fed by floodwater and shallow groundwater along stream banks and differs from both the adjacent aquatic stream environment and the upland terrestrial environment.

Nearly 27% of timberland in Kansas is found in riparian zones. In central and western Kansas, almost all of it is. There, rivers and creeks can be identified from far off because the trees and other vegetation outlining their routes stand out above farm fields and pastures.

Riparian zones provide essential erosion and sediment control, timber, wildlife habitat, water quality protection, and recreation. Trees stabilize stream banks so they don't erode quickly, and riparian soils and vegetation act as filters, trapping pesticides, bacteria, and other pollutants before they reach the water. Tree canopies also cool water during hot summers, which helps keep streams safe for fish and other aquatic life.


Kansas Forests: Resource Bulletin NRS-26, 2005, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station

Benefits of Streamside Forestry: Kansas Forest Service

Riparian Areas Reservoirs of Diversity: Natural Resources Conservation Service, Kansas, United States Department of Agriculture