- Associated Press - Thursday, August 13, 2015

SYRACUSE, Kan. (AP) - After having to call it quits years ago because of longstanding drought and low water levels, organizers have rekindled a floating event on the Arkansas River, which once again actually has water in it thanks to recent rains around the region.

The annual Arkansas River Run began in the 1980s and was discontinued in the 1990s when the water levels dropped dramatically, The Hutchinson News reported (http://bit.ly/1NcQaUO). The annual event included cruising the Arkansas, located a couple of miles south of Syracuse, in wildly decorated vessels, including horse tanks.

“Our biggest year, and I don’t remember the year, but the biggest we had 120 floaters and that would have been in the ‘80s,” said Sandy Dikeman, former director of the Syracuse Chamber of Commerce.

Krista Norton, a reporter at the Syracuse Journal, helped organized the events years ago until it became difficult to predict whether there would be enough water in the river, which originates in Colorado.

But water is again flowing, thanks to a deluge of rain. The water in the Arkansas River in Kansas comes from releases by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the John Martin Reservoir in Hasty, Colorado.

Kevin Salter, interstate water engineer with the Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Water Resources, said in recent years, the water released has been just enough to meet irrigation needs.

But this year was different because there was more rainfall in both Colorado and Kansas and more snow run-off from the mountains. Salter said the Arkansas River’s average flow of water near Syracuse is about 150 cubic feet per second.

“And right now, we’re flowing at about 575 cubic feet per second,” Salter said.

Crystal Lampe, an organizer of the Aug. 22 event, said she her husband’s grandmother once won the prize for oldest person in the river.

“It’s kind of a legend,” she said. “Years ago, I heard stories that someone took an old Volkswagen Bug and turned it into a floating vessel to float down the river.”

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Information from: The Hutchinson (Kan.) News, http://www.hutchnews.com

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