Smoky Hill River Renewal

In the early history of Salina, Kansas, the Smoky Hill River meandered throughout the town for 6.8 miles. However, after the devastating flood of 1951, the City of Salina took action to remedy the flooding problem in the community.  In 1961 the river was diverted by the Corps of Engineers to the east side of town, and the once beautiful river became a silted-in riverbed with almost no flow. Since then, the community has sought a way to restore its waterway while leaving the floodgates and dike intact.

The Friends of the River Foundation’s mission is to restore water flow to the Smoky Hill River. In collaboration with the City of Salina, a 2010 ballot measure was passed for a small increase to Salina’s sales tax for renewal of the river in 2016.  The City of Salina is overseeing the restoration in collaboration with HDR, the engineering firm hired in 2017. Design of the first construction phase will be complete in 2020.   The Corps of Engineers is also part of the long-term plan to restore the river to a living ecological waterway that could sustain fish life. This project will dredge the old channel to sustain fish life and to allow controlled water flow back into this channel, build trails next to the river, install an urban board walk on a small portion of the river next to Downtown, and build new bridges to allow boating.

The Smoky Hill River Renewal project will transform a damaged ecosystem to a living, thriving one, and will restore the identity of the Salina Community as a river town. The completed project will offer accessibility to all community members and guests of Salina for hiking, running, boating and fishing along the waterway. It will also provide natural education for all ages, as well as opportunities for volunteers to help with maintaining a natural asset that is iconic for Salina.

* Project restores natural hydrologic conditions to facilitate improved capture and infiltration of surface water and groundwater recharge


Salina, KS

Start Up Date:


Project Benefits:

Community Engagement & Education

Enhancing Recreation & Economic Benefits

Environmental Flow Restoration & Protection

Green Infrastructure Investment

Water Quality Improvement

Project Type:

Restoration of Natural Hydrology *


Funding Needed

Volunteer Opportunities