The first recorded “outsiders” to visit the Kansas City area were Lewis & Clark on June 26, 1804. They made their encampment at the confluence of the Missouri and Kaw Rivers, at what is now known as Kaw Point. For three days they rested, repaired their boats, and explored the countryside. They had been sent by President Jefferson, along with a crew of 51 men, to trace the Missouri River to its source. The hope was to find a route to the Pacific Ocean.

Kaw Point Park - Kansas City Kansas - Lewis and Clark

Lewis weighed the water at Kaw Point, and found the Missouri River water to be heavier, meaning it carried more mud. The men took mathematical measurements of the area, and built a temporary fortification. Although the Kanza Indians were the local tribe, the explorers did not meet with any on this trip. On the day they first saw Kansas, Clark wrote that they same a great number of “Parrot queets”. This is in reference to the now extinct Carolina Parakeet, which had never been seen west of the Mississippi. They also saw their first buffalo in Kansas, but were unsuccessful at hunting one.

Today, still nestled on the banks of the Missouri & Kansas Rivers,  Kaw Point is home to a park. There is a boardwalk that leads to an education pavilion focused on the events of 1804. There are 19 nameplates which represent the native tribes from the region. A natural rock “Encampment Theater” sits on the sight of Lewis & Clark’s Lookout, which is the sight of a historic court-marshall. Here two young crew members were tried and punished for illicitly drinking whiskey from the community barrel.

Kaw Point, park, kansas city, kansas, lewis & clark

  The outdoor theater seats approximately 500 people on limestone blocks carved with the names of the 51 crew members. This theater can be reserved through the Wyandotte County Parks and Recreation for events such as reenactments, musicals or weddings. I would suggest you bring your own cushions. There are approximately 600 yards of trails suitable for biking and hiking. They are tree covered, and afford excellent views of the rivers as well as of downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

Kaw Point, park, kansas city, kansas, lewis & clark

   In 2004 a new boat ramp was constructed, and is available to fishermen and recreational boaters. It is open 24 hours a day, and no permit is required for non-motorized boats. Every summer in mid-July, Kaw Point hosts the “Missouri 340 Race”. This event pits competitors to race paddle crafts from Kansas City to St. Charles, Missouri. The send off from Kansas City is done with great fanfare.

We hope you take an opportunity to visit this out of the way sight, and connect with the beginnings of our community. It is a great location for exploring, and taking a leisurely picnic. The park is free to the public, as is the ample parking. With the construction of the new warehousing in close proximity, the entrance is to be updated for better access.