Parent Category: Kansas Reading Library
Category: Kansas Facts
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The scarcity of natural water areas and the need for water conservation and flood control led indirectly to the development of the State's chief recreational asset its State parks. A plan to establish a system of parks, in connection with the construction of artificial lakes, was first proposed in 1923 by a group of sportsmen and conservationists.

Through their efforts the State forestry, fish and game commission was organized in 1925 and necessary legislation was passed to begin a lake building program in Neosho County. Sportsmen in that and adjacent Labette County donated 215 acres of land to the commission and a dam was built in 1927, impounding 95 acres of water.

The first lakes were financed entirely by State funds. When the Federal relief agencies launched a water conservation program in 1932, Kansas promptly took advantage of that assistance. The Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps have cooperated in developing lakes and surrounding park areas. There are now (1938) twenty-five State parks, the largest of which is in Kingman County (1,562 acres). Artificial lakes are the nuclei of the majority of these parks and, in addition, hundreds of smaller lakes of twenty acres or less have been completed. The Kansas State lake plan has been adopted in neighboring Missouri and Oklahoma.

The State lakes are stocked with fish from the State hatchery at Pratt (see Tour 5), which propagates bass, drum, crappie, bluegill, bull head, yellow perch, and channel cat. These fish are also indigenous to many Kansas creeks and rivers. Besides fishing, the State lakes and parks have facilities for boating, swimming, and camping.

Pioneer hunters and trappers found vast quantities of game and other wild life in Kansas. Gradually many species became extinct or greatly diminished in number. The program of the forestry, fish and game commission has restored a small fraction of the State's game, and increased the opportunities for good hunting. The commission has established a public shooting ground near Jamestown, Republic County, where the water area, normally 765 acres, lies in salt marshlands. There are 40 blinds, each accommodating two hunters. A nominal fee is charged for the use of blinds and decoys. The commission also maintains quail farms near Calista and Pittsburg, and a 3,200 acre tract in Finney County which serves as a buffalo range and a prairie chicken preserve.

The supply of quail and prairie chicken has been steadily enlarged, but these game birds still need the protection of a short season. Found in great numbers, and consequently hunted during longer open seasons, are 'coon, squirrels, and mourning doves. Duck hunting in season is popular at the State lakes and along the larger streams.

The jackrabbit drive is peculiar to western Kansas. Advertised for days in advance by handbills and local newspapers, the drive usually starts on Sunday and is attended by great crowds of spectators. A certain area, covering perhaps thousands of acres, is surrounded by beaters armed with clubs and sticks; guns are banned. Hundreds of people take part. Slowly the lines close in on all sides, flushing the rabbits into a large pen or wire enclosure at a central point, where they are clubbed to death. The daily "kill," which in many instances exceeds 6,500, is reported by the local press. Denounced in other sections as a sadistic display, the drive is defended in the western part of the State as an economic necessity, since the rabbits feed on green wheat.

Similar to the rabbit drive in plan and purpose is the wolf or coyote drive. A common event in earlier years, these drives were revived in certain regions of Kansas after 1930, when the suspension of bounties by economizing county governments resulted in a mounting loss of small livestock. A modern touch was recently added when coyote hunters in Franklin County used a low-flying airplane to spot their quarry.

The most popular drives in Kansas, however, are those made with golf clubs and tennis rackets. Five Statewide golf tournaments are held each year. A State tennis meet is held annually at Independence, and an interscholastic tournament is held at Emporia. Invitation tennis meets are scheduled each season at Wichita, Dodge City, McPherson, and other cities.


Football, an intercollegiate sport of Kansas colleges since the early 1890'$, is now on the athletic program of 400 Kansas high schools. A so called "clinical" game, employing rules that marked the beginning of the transition from the old "push-and-pull" kind of football to the modern open game, was played at Wichita in 1905. The first forward pass in American football history was attempted and completed in this trial game.

The Thanksgiving Day Football game between the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri is a traditional contest that dates from 1891. The game is played at the Missouri field and the Kansas Stadium in alternate years. The annual game between the Kansas State College and the University of Kansas, played alternately at Lawrence and Manhattan, is of Statewide interest.

Basketball is the most popular team sport in Kansas. The game was invented by a Kansan, Dr. James L. Naismith of the Physical Education Department of the University of Kansas, in collaboration with Luther H. Gulick. Kansas basketball teams have thrice won first place in the national high school tournament, and the University of Kansas is a perennial leader in the Big Six conference. The annual national tournament for women's basketball teams is held in March at Wichita.

Kansas is represented in professional baseball by the Salina Millers and the Hutchinson Larks of the Western Association. The National Semi-Professional Baseball Congress is held annually at Wichita. Statewide amateur leagues include the Ban Johnson League for youths, and the American Legion Junior League for boys between thirteen and sixteen. Softball, said to have been invented at Topeka in April 1916 by employees of the Santa Fe Railway, is very popular in the larger cities.

The University of Kansas Relays, a two-day track and field carnival held in the latter part of April at the university stadium in Lawrence, is an event of national interest. Established in 1924, soon after the completion of the stadium, this meet has become a rendezvous for internationally known athletes. Among those who have competed in the Kansas Relays are Jim Bausch of Wichita, 1932 Olympic decathlon champion; Glenn Cunningham of Elkhart, holder of the world's record for the mile and a member of the Olympic team in 1932 and 1936; and Archie San Roman! of Pittsburg, middle-distance runner and a member of the 1936 Olympic team.

Professional boxing bouts are infrequent in Kansas, but professional wrestling matches are held at Topeka, Wichita, Pittsburg, Kansas City and Hutchinson. Amateur boxing is popular at Kansas State College, Kansas University, Haskell Institute, and St. Benedict's College. A wrestling tournament is conducted annually by the Kansas High School Association.

Harness racing, a highly developed and popular sport which declined between 1929 and 1934, has enjoyed a recent revival. Race meetings are held at various county affairs and at the Topeka and Hutchinson State Fairs. Spring and autumn coursing meets are held at Abilene. Dog and horse races are annual features at Dodge City. Lawrin, winner of the Kentucky Derby in 1938, was foaled and trained at the Woolford Farms of Herbert Wolf in Johnson County. Polo, almost unknown in the Middle West until a few years ago, is played at Topeka, Wichita, and other major cities.

Acutely aware that its chief places of recreation were the corner lot and the malarial "swimmin' hole," urban Kansas, beginning with the establishment of a playground system at Topeka in 1912, turned its attention toward acquiring suitable recreational facilities. Today there is scarcely a town with a population of more than 1,500 that lacks a golf course, a swimming pool, tennis courts, and baseball diamonds. A recreational program is now being carried on by the WPA in 121 communities.

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