© 2022 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

52,000 Fish Die After Low Water Trapped Them In Kansas City's Brush Creek

Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
The concrete waterfalls along Brush Creek east of Troost may have contributed to the large and odiferous fish kill earlier in the week.

More than 52,000 fish died in Brush Creek after low water levels, an overabundance of fish and high temperatures likely led to low oxygen levels, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.

To put that number into perspective, the conservation department states that they handle about 200 similar fish kills each year. The department estimates that around 1,900 common carp, 240 silver carp and 50,000 sunfish died in Brush Creek.

One man posted a Facebook video of piles of dead fish while on his morning bike ride to work.

An MDC report states that heavy rainfall last week may have caused fish to swim upstream from Missouri’s Blue River into Brush Creek.

Bill Graham, a media specialist with the conservation department, said after the fish swam upstream, they were trapped by man-made concrete steps designed to control water flow in the creek.

“And then when the water levels dropped back down, they could not get back out because of the concrete structures,” Graham said.

Adam Paige is an environmental supervisor at the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. He said low water levels caused the steps to act as a trap.

“And from what I can tell, it looks like the fish were kind of caught in between the previous set of steps and this one to where it essentially made a rather large pool,” Paige said. “They were isolated.”

Fish need oxygen to breathe, like people. And when a large amount of fish are packed in a confined space of water, they will breathe all the oxygen until it runs out.

Paige said the warm temperatures likely caused the fish to use up all the oxygen in the isolated pools quickly.

The city discovered the dead fish Monday, spokeswoman Maggie Green said. The Parks and Recreation Department, along with a contractor, removed the carcasses and bones Wednesday.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and powerful storytelling.
Your donation helps make non-profit journalism available for everyone.