The Wichita and Valley Center Flood Control Project, shown on plate 1, is located on the Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers and on tributary streams in the immediate vicinity of the cities of Wichita and Valley Center, Kansas. The plan of improvement provides for diverting floodwaters of Little Arkansas River, the Arkansas River, Chisholm Creek, Big Slough Creek and Cowskin Creek into the Big Slough - Cowskin Floodway, on the west side of Wichita. The Big Slough - Cowskin Floodway follows a course, generally south, from a point on the Arkansas River northwest of Wichita, then in a southeasterly direction, intercepting both Big Slough and Cowskin Creeks, and reentering the Arkansas River south of the city of Wichita. It consists of 97 miles of earthen levees. There are five un-gated control structures which allow low flows to continue their normal course. The Wichita Drainage Canal, which was originally constructed by local interests to divert flows of the East Branch of Chisholm Creek, was cleared and enlarged to provide additional protection.
Features of the flood control project consists of two pumping plants, constructed by the city of Wichita, for removal of interior drainage, two floodwalls, various control structures and drainage pips with either manually operated or automatic flap gates or both. The project also has several thousand feet of steel jetties at three locations on the Arkansas River Training Levee and near the mouth of the Big Slough - Cowskin Floodway.
History of Wichita
The City of Wichita, incorporated in 1870, is situated at the junction of the Arkansas River and the Little Arkansas River, in south central Kansas. It is the county seat of Sedgwick County, and the 51st largest city in the United States.
As a railhead on the Chisholm Trail, Wichita represented the end of the road for many cattle drives heading north to transport the cattle to eastern markets. Early in the twentieth century, oil was discovered nearby. Because of the money this afforded to entrepreneurs, Wichita soon became a center for aircraft industry, which gave it the nickname "Air Capital of the World." Other well-known businesses originated here as well, including Pizza Hut and White Castle. Wichita is home to several colleges and universities, and enjoys a flourishing cultural life - much of which centers around the Arkansas River in the form of festivals, walks, and other recreation.
The Arkansas River passes through Colorado, Oklahoma and Arkansas as well as Kansas, and is the longest tributary of the Mississippi-Missouri river system. The Spanish explorer Vasquez de Coronado crossed it in 1541, near what is now Dodge City. Since the 1800's the river has provided irrigation for surrounding land, as well as sport fishing, boating, and wildlife watching. The City of Wichita has consistently taken steps to preserve and improve the river's quality, and to incorporate it into their community and cultural life. The advantages of a city founded on the flat Kansas plains at the confluence of these two rivers comes also with a major disadvantage, flooding. These floods were frequent and often devastating. Major property damage in downtown Wichita occurring throughout its history until the 1950's.