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This special series explored the history and impact of the most distinct lines in Kansas City: Troost Avenue, the State Line, the Wyandotte-Johnson county line, and the Missouri River.

5 Ways To Cross The Missouri River If You Don’t Have A Car

Suzanne Hogan
KCUR reporter Suzanne Hogan riding her bike across the Chouteau Bridge overlooking the Missouri River and downtown Kansas City skyline.

It doesn’t take long to drive a car across the Missouri River.

Depending on traffic, the roughly half-mile trek can take just one minute. But if you don’t have a car, the Missouri River can seem like a much larger obstacle.

According to the U.S. Census, about 84 percent of the Kansas City metro population drives alone to work. That leaves the other 16 percent commuting by other means, like carpooling, public transit, walking, biking or just working from home.

As part of our exploration into the Missouri River as a dividing line, we thought we’d break down the different ways you can travel from one side of the "Mighty Mo" to the other if you don’t have a car — or do, but just don’t feel like driving.

1. Carpooling and taxis

The ride-hiring company Lyft left Kansas City,but you can still catch a ride with the similar service, Uber. There are also many taxi companies, and Ride Share Connection — a site that’s trying to serve as a resource for commuters searching for carpooling options. 

2. Buses

There are 18 bus routes that service the Northland, and about 4,000 people ride those routes every week. 

"The challenges are trying to provide enough transit in an area that's very sprawled out," Cindy Baker of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority told KCUR's Gina Kaufmann on Central Standard

Baker says providing better access to the Northland is a priority, but funding can be a problem.

"If you want to travel within the Northland — not even crossing the river — there are some real obstacles. Say, even traveling from Liberty to Parkville," she says. 

But Baker says there seems to be an unlimited need for transit throughout the city. Currently 12 of the 18 bus routes cross over the river every day.

Credit Suzanne Hogan / KCUR
Katie Glaser and Cory Clements are touring by bike from Bloomington, Indiana to Seattle, Washington. It was their first time riding on the Heart of America Bridge.

3. Biking

If you want to bike across the river it takes about 10 minutes. As recently as five years ago there weren't any separated bicycle pedestrian paths to cross the river. 

The Heart of America Bridge was the first separated path for cyclists and pedestrians, and the Chouteau Bridge was the second. Bicycle and pedestrian advocates were hoping that the new Kit Bond Bridge, which completed construction in 2010, would have bicycle and pedestrian facilities, but when that plan got turned down, MODOT came up with a compromise to retrofit two existing bridges — Heart of America and Chouteau.  

The Heart of America Bridge has a separated bicycle pedestrian path going north bound. You can access the path two ways: by taking Cherry Street North, though you have to cross a ramp that is spilling out from the highway, or the safer route is through Columbus Park off Holmes Street. 

The Chouteau Bridge has bike lanes and a separate bicycle pedestrian path on both sides of the bridge. It also has a beautiful view of the Missouri River with the downtown skyline.

The Broadway Bridge is not a recommended way to cross by biking or walking.

The new Fairfax Bridge in Kansas City, Kansas, will cross across the Missouri River connecting to Riverside. It's scheduled to be open in December, 2016. Bicycle and pedestrian paths were a big part of the design, and will be completed by summer 2017.

4. Walking 

The same paths exist for walking as cycling, though the travel time obviously takes longer. The estimated time it takes to cross the Heart of America Bridge and Chouteau Bridge by foot is about 25 minutes. 

You often see people walking on the Broadway Bridge, which is not a safe pathway for pedestrians, but can seem like the most direct route for people.

"If you're walking, for you to detour over to the Heart of America Bridge, that's 20-30 minutes," says Eric Rogers of Bike Walk KC. "Then it's another 20-30 minutes walk across the river, and then another 20-30 walk back west. And by that time you've gone an hour and a half out of the way. So that's one of the reasons you see people waking across the Broadway Bridge."

Rogers says that despite the inconvenience it may impose upon people, pedestrians should definitely stick to the two designated routes.

5. Boating 

Credit Suzanne Hogan / KCUR
Ira Brown fishes at the River Front Park boat dock whenever he can. He says he sees people take boats out on the Missouri pretty often to fish, but people don't cross back and forth necessarily.

In 1879, before there were bridges to cross the Missouri River, there was the Annie Cade ferryboat. It was a boat that usually landed between Main Street and Grand Avenue and connected over to the Harlem neighborhood — a little town across the river established before North Kansas City existed. That ferry stayed afloat until 1912.

Today, if you want to cross the Missouri River by boat you need to do quite a bit of research and planning. You will need to follow the recreational boating rules that are outlined by the state, and U.S. Coast Guard rules because of commercial navigation.

The currents on the Missouri River can range from 3-7 miles per hour, and the depth of the water varies considerably. You must wear a life jacket. Always check weather conditions as they can effect water levels and your safety. There are also numerous rock dikes and other hidden obstacles along the way that can damage your boat or put you in danger. 

There are six boat launch access points within the Kansas City metro area. Here they are in order from upstream to downstream.

  • Leavenworth, Kansas
  • Parkville, Missouri, at English Landing Park
  • Kansas City, Kansas, at Kaw Point
  • Kansas City, Missouri, at Riverfront Park 
  • Sugar Creek, Missouri at La Benite Park 
  • Cooley Lake Conservation Area, near Mosby, Missouri

Most of the bank line on the Missouri River is privately owned, so if you aren't planning on docking at one of these locations you are at risk for trespassing. If all of this doesn’t faze you, then just be aware that if you cross without a motor, you are going to end up quite a ways downstream. 
This look at the Missouri River is part of KCUR's months-long examination of how geographic borders affect our daily lives in Kansas City. KCUR will go Beyond Our Borders and spark a community conversation through social outreach and innovative journalism.

We will share the history of these lines, how the borders affect the current Kansas City experience and what’s being done to bridge or dissolve them.

Every part of the present has been shaped by actions that took place in the past, but too often that context is left out. As a podcast producer for KCUR Studios and host of the podcast A People’s History of Kansas City, I aim to provide context, clarity, empathy and deeper, nuanced perspectives on how the events and people in the past have shaped our community today. In that role, and as an occasional announcer and reporter, I want to entertain, inform, make you think, expose something new and cultivate a deeper shared human connection about how the passage of time affects us all. Reach me at hogansm@kcur.org.
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