Courtesy Kansas Tourism
Published March 05, 2014
North Little Rock, Arkansas
On the Arkansas River in North Little Rock, community officials hope to soon have two vessels that will represent bookends of World War II.
The USS Razorback, a Balao-class submarine that participated in Japan’s formal surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay, is already anchored in the river as part of the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum. But the city is working to get the USS Hoga, a tugboat that survived the bombing of Pearl Harbor and helped several vessels that were damaged in the attack.
“It would be bookends of World War II; the Hoga was there at the beginning and the Razorback at the end,” said Derrell Hartwick, group tour consultant for the North Little Rock Visitors Bureau.
City officials are hoping to have the Hoga, which is currently in Oakland, California, relocated to the museum by the December 7 anniversary this year. The museum is located on a pontoon that’s connected to the USS Razorback, both of which are open for tours, Hartwick said.
Groups can also enjoy the river via cruises offered by the Dam Riverboat Co., which runs North Little Rock’s Mark Twain Riverboat. Passengers can take an hourlong sightseeing cruise or a two-hour dinner cruise on the two-story replica paddle-wheel boat.
The Mark Twain cruises down the Little Rock side of the river before turning and returning on the North Little Rock side, Hartwick said. Guests will see the Clinton Presidential Library and both cities’ shorelines and skylines while the captain points out other landmarks and explains the river’s lock-and-dam system.
Three pedestrian bridges span the Arkansas between Little Rock and North Little Rock. At 4,226 linear feet, the Big Dam Bridge is believed to be the longest pedestrian-only bridge in the world. The bridge opened in 2006 and helps further connect the two cities’ extensive system of riverside recreation trails.
Groups can also rent bicycles from Fike’s Bikes, located in River Trail Station in North Little Rock, to explore the city, the riverfront and the bridges.
The Big Dam Bridge, the Interstate 30 bridge and the Main Street bridge all light up, which “gives the city a little flair at night,” Hartwick said.
Kansas River Trail
The Kansas River Trail follows the river, known to locals as “the Kaw,” for 173 miles from Junction City to Kansas City, winding though several communities along the way, among them Manhattan, Wamego, Topeka, Lecompton and Lawrence.
In 2012, then Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar named the Kansas River Trail a National Water Trail. The designation means the National Park Service will work with the state and the cities along the river to increase access to the river and promote public use of it.
The state has already used grant money to create a website and a brochure and has installed signs along Interstate 70 to direct people to the river’s access point, said Kelli Hilliard, assistant marketing manager for Kansas Tourism.
“Anybody can get on the river at any time; it’s just about letting them know,” she said.
The Kaw’s designation as a National Water Trail is still fairly new, so many efforts to promote use of the river are still in the beginning stages, she said. The hope is that eventually, more outfitters and businesses will start running on the river, Hilliard said.
Only a couple of outfitters now offer group kayaking and canoe trips on the river. Mud Kat Kayaking in Manhattan provides kayak rentals and guided group kayak tours. Friends of the Kaw is a nonprofit environmental group that leads guided group kayak and canoe floats as part of its mission to promote public use of the river. Friends of the Kaw is now booking float trips for the 2014 season, which runs from April to mid-October.
Private groups of 16 to 24 people get to pick the time, the date and on which segment of the river they’d like to float, and Friends of the Kaw will take the boats to the group. The trips also include an educational “sand bar” seminar followed by a hot dog and marshmallow roast.