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Verdigris River, Oklahoma
Report by Marc W. McCord

~ 280 miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

The Verdigris River has its source in several small streams, one of which rises in eastern Chase County, one in northern Greenwood County and two in southern Lyon County, all in Kansas. The river then generally flows in a southeasterly direction across Greenwood County, the extreme southwestern corner of Woodson County, Wilson and Montgomery Counties, entering Oklahoma almost due south of Coffeyville, Kansas. From there it flows through the counties of Nowata, Rogers and Wagoner, Oklahoma to its confluence with the Arkansas River near the town of Wybark, about 3 miles from Fort Gibson about a mile upstream of the mouth of the Neosho River.

The river flows about 280 miles through Kansas and Oklahoma, and was historically used as a major fur trading route in the 1700's and 1800's. The river's name is derived from the French words vert, meaning "green," and gris, meaning "grey", which typifies the appearance of the river depending upon the season - summers are lush and verdant while winters are grey as foliage retreats in the cold air coming across the Kansas and Oklahoma plains from Canada. The Treaty of 1834 with the Cherokee Nation named the river as a partial boundry of the area that is home to the Cherokee people following their forced displacement from their ancestral lands in Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina by President Andrew Jackson.

Among many others, the most significant tributaries of the Verdigris are the Paw, Elk (not the same one flowing from Missouri into Oklahoma) and Fall Rivers in Kansas, and Big Caney and Little Verdigris Rivers in Okalhoma. It is also fed by a number of other streams including Willow, Homer, Sandy, Drum, Big Hill, Pumpkin and Onion Creeks in Kansas, and about two dozen smaller streams in Oklahoma. Nearly one-half the total length of the river flows through Oklahoma where it is a major transportation highway for barge traffic as a part of the McClellan-Kerr Navigation System starting just north of Catoosa, Oklahoma and continuing to its Arkansas River confluence. The navigation channel consists of a series of locks and dams that control water levels for commercial navigation between Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Mississippi River into which the Arkansas River flows.

US Army Corps of Engineers dams form Lake Toronto near Toronto, Kansas and Lake Oologah near Oologah, Oklahoma, yet the amount of commercial traffic is fairly light, and the Verdigris River offers immense opportunities for recreational activity in an area of relative remoteness and natural surroundings that is largely free of commercial, industrial or residential development. The river is a perennial river of large volume. It is a slow, meandering stream that is free of rapids and other hazards other than very large barges that could pose dangers for small, recreational canoes or kayaks if you venture too closely.


Nowata, Rogers and Wagoner Counties in northeastern Oklahoma from the Kansas border to its confluence with the Arkansas River near Fort Gibson.

Distance from major cities

Oklahoma City miles; Tulsa miles; Dallas miles; Fort Worth miles; Austin miles; San Antonio miles; Houston miles; Little Rock miles; Kansas City miles; Albuquerque miles; Phoenix miles; Denver miles; Salt Lake City miles (all distance are approximate depending upon starting point, destination at the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Usually murky to muddy depending upon recent local rainfall, but seldom clear. Water quality may be impaired by the presence of contaminants from barge traffic and commercial operations near the river, though it is not known to be unsafe for human contact.

Best time to go

The Verdigris River is a perennial stream that flows year round with a high volume controlled by a couple of dams that form lakes in Kansas and Oklahoma, as well as some dams located adjacent to ship locks on the river between Catoosa, Oklahoma and the Arkansas River confluence.

Hazards to navigation

Watch for large, commercial barge traddic when paddling the Verdigris River. Other than that, the Verdigris is generally free of any hazards to navigation between the dams, and is a flatwater stream.

River Access Points

Campgrounds and accommodations

There are no known commercial or private campgrounds located along the Verdigris River. Much of the adjacent land may be privately owned, though some of it sits within the boundry of the Cherokee Nation, which has its capitol at Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Check with the Cherokee government center in Tahlequah to determine if there are restrictions for river use within their jurisdiction.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are no know commercial liveries, outfitters or shuttle services located along teh Verdigris River in Oklahoma. Bring your own boats and gear, and set up your own shuttles.

Reviewer's comments

Technical Data
Class Rating Flatwater
Length 280 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow cfs
Maximum Flow
First Put-in
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out
Lat. / Long.
Elevation msl
Gradient fpm
USGS Gauge Lenapah, OK
Claremore, OK
Wagoner, OK
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
Season Year-round, weather permitting
Spring and fall months are preferable
Permits No

Verdigris River near Coffeyville, Kansas
Verdigris River near Coffeyville, Kansas

Canoeman River Guide Service - Guided river trips in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah

Verdigris River near Lenapah, Oklahoma
Verdigris River near Lenapah, Oklahoma

Dallas Down River Club - Promoting paddlesports, safety and environmental protection

Newt Graham Lock and Dam
Newt Graham Lock and Dam

Click the links below for information regarding the section of the Arkansas River and its tributaries where you want to paddle.

[ Arkansas River Homepage ] [ Kaw Lake to SH 99 ] [ Keystone State Park to US Hwy 69 ] [ Salt Fork of the Arkansas River ]
[ Bird Creek ] [ Caney River ] [ Cimarron River ] [ Salt Creek ] [ Spring River ] [ Stillwater Creek ] [ Neosho River ]

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© October 2, 2002. All rights reserved.
Last updated September 10, 2014

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