The Arkansas River, part of the Upper Arkansas River Drainage Basin, rises in central Colorado, in a pocket of peaks in Lake County, near present Leadville, at an altitude of 10,000 feet. the Arkansas river crosses Kansas from West to East. Passing through Dodge City, turning NE to Great Bend, then SE to Wichita and exiting the state near Arkansas City. The river empties into Kaw Lake.
First mention was in narratives of the 1540-1541 Coronado Expedition. The drainage area of the Arkansas is variously given as 177,510 square miles by the U.S. Weather Bureau, and from 185,000 to 188,000 square miles by standard encyclopedias, this being greater than the area drained by the upper Mississippi. The stream is the greatest western affluent of the Missouri-Mississippi system, and its length is variously given as 1,477 miles by the Weather Bureau, and approximately 2,000 miles by the encyclopedias.