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Arkansas City, Kansas facts for kids

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Arkansas City, Kansas
Summit Avenue looking north (2013)
Summit Avenue looking north (2013)
Ark City
Location within Cowley County and Kansas
Location within Cowley County and Kansas
KDOT map of Cowley County (legend)
Country United States
State Kansas
County Cowley
Founded 1870
Incorporated 1884
 • Total 9.34 sq mi (24.18 km2)
 • Land 9.32 sq mi (24.13 km2)
 • Water 0.02 sq mi (0.05 km2)  0.21%
1,116 ft (340 m)
 • Total 11,974
 • Density 1,282.0/sq mi (495.20/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code 620
FIPS code 20-02300
GNIS ID 470061

Arkansas City is a city in Cowley County, Kansas, United States, situated at the confluence of the Arkansas River and Walnut River in the southwestern part of the county. As of the 2020 census, the population of the city was 11,974. The name of this city is not pronounced like the nearby state of Arkansas, but rather as (the final "s" is pronounced). Over the years there has been much confusion about the regional pronunciation of "Arkansas", which locals render as rather than. Throughout much of Kansas, residents use this alternative pronunciation when referring to the Arkansas River, as well as Arkansas Street in the city of Wichita.


In 1601, New Mexico Governor Juan de Oñate led an expedition across the Great Plains and found a large settlement of Indians he called Rayados. The most likely location for the Rayado settlement was along the Walnut River in the eastern part of Arkansas City. Extensive remains of Indian settlements have been found along six miles (9.7 km) of the Walnut River. The Rayados were the ancestors of the Indians later called Wichita. Wichita settlements from the 18th century are also found a few miles south of Arkansas City on the west bank of the Arkansas River. (See Deer Creek/Bryson Paddock Sites)

19th century

"Boomers Camp. Arkansas City, Kan. Waiting For the Strip To Open Mar. 1st, 1893." - NARA - 516453
Boomer camp at Arkansas City waiting for Land Run of 1893 in Oklahoma

White settlers first congregated in the area where Arkansas City now stands in the 1860s. The natives referred to the place as "Nichonka," which roughly translates as "place between the waters" — a reference to the confluence of the Arkansas and Walnut rivers.

Settlers supposedly established a town in around 1870. They had difficulty choosing a name; at first they hoped to flatter U.S. Postmaster General John A. J. Creswell (and win a highly sought-after post office) by naming the town Creswell in his honor, but cities in other states had already used the name. The town fathers considered other names, such as Adelphia and Walnut City. Finally, the name Arkansas City was adopted for the town. The first post office in Arkansas City was established on May 16, 1870.

In 1877, the Florence, El Dorado, and Walnut Valley Railroad Company built a branch line from Florence to El Dorado, in 1881 it was extended to Douglass, and later to Arkansas City. The line was leased and operated by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. The line from Florence to El Dorado was abandoned in 1942. The original branch line connected Florence, Burns, De Graff, El Dorado, Augusta, Douglass, Rock, Akron, Winfield, Arkansas City.

Arkansas City grew steadily through the latter part of the 19th century, and enjoyed a population explosion starting in 1891, when thousands of people moved into the area in anticipation of the Cherokee Strip Land Run. It has been estimated that the city's population swelled from 5,000 to 150,000 (most living in temporary encampments) as the nationally hyped federal land giveaway approached, and shrank back to 5,000 in its aftermath.

A small cave just east of town (in the Flint Hills) was a rest stop for Buffalo Bill Cody when he transited the area working the railroad and killing buffalo.

The James-Younger Gang of outlaws famously hid out in a cave west of town when they rode through the area.

20th century

At the turn of the century, Arkansas City was a rival to Wichita in size and enterprise, boasting several busy rail lines, an elegant opera house, numerous fine hotels, a manufacturing base and a bustling agricultural economy. There was even a famous (health spa) at nearby Geuda Springs, served by an electric railway running a triangular route from there to Ark City and Winfield. A popular swimming hole called Paris Lake was located west of downtown; the lake – and the hot springs at Geuda as well – was mired with silt in a flood about 1919. Nearly 20 years later the WPA would build the Paris Park pool in the same spot. African Americans were not allowed to swim in the Paris Park pool during the era of segregation and used a separate facility colloquially referred to as "the black pool" by local residents.

The Kirkwood Wind Engine Company, a former windmill manufacturer, was headquartered in Arkansas City near the turn of the 20th century; the now-defunct Kanotex Refining Company established a refinery and headquarters in the city in 1917.

During the 1920s, Arkansas City had an active group of Ku Klux Klan (KKK). The group was mostly concentrated in south-central and south-east Kansas. The state took action to shut down the group, and most Klans disbanded by 1927.

In 1928, the city's official fall festival, Arkalalah, was inaugurated. This annual event still draws thousands of visitors each October, and features a queen, a carnival, dozens of homegrown fair food vendors and a spectacular parade typically lasting three hours or more. During the 1955 Arkalalah celebration, a retired Santa Fe locomotive was driven on temporary tracks down the city's main street, Summit, to the spot in Wilson Park where it remains today.

The city prospered through much of the 20th century, but by the 1980s, the community was facing economic challenges. The railroads shifted many of their crews to other stops, the old Rodeo meat packing plant, which for a short time was Morrell Meats, closed. The only passenger train that served the city, Amtrak's Lone Star, was discontinued. In 1996 Total Petroleum closed their refinery in Ark City with a loss of 170 jobs. By 2003 other large employers in Cowley County closed operations. The Binney & Smith (Crayola) plant closed with a loss of 400 jobs. Winfield State Hospital and Gordon Piatt Industries were closed in nearby Winfield with a combined loss of 973 jobs. Montgomery KONE Elevator and Central Plains Book Manufacturing at nearby Strother Field were also shuttered.

21st century

Arkansas City is now home to state-of-the-art meat processor Creekstone Farms Premium Beef LLC which employs over 700 workers. Several smaller manufacturing companies are expanding their operations while new start ups are finding a home in Cowley County due in part to the workforce supplied by the two local colleges in the county. Both cities, only 11 miles (18 km) apart, now have large Wal-Mart stores (a new Wal-Mart Supercenter opened in Arkansas City in March 2006, and another has been constructed in Winfield); conversely, both towns' (in Arkansas City – the Burford, the Howard, and the Crest) movie theaters recently closed and were replaced by a single facility halfway between the cities, just south of the Strother Field industrial park. B & B Theatres donated the two downtown buildings to non-profit organizations in each of the respective communities. The Ark City Burford Theatre and Commercial Building is undergoing a transformation/renovation that will become a new community arts center and gathering space. Construction began in spring 2006 on the planned downtown revitalization streetscape.

In 2006, the local physicians in Arkansas City banded together with the South Central Kansas Regional Medical Center (SCKRMC) board and the City of Arkansas City to build a new hospital, which opened in March 2011.

In 2010, the Keystone-Cushing Pipeline (Phase II) was constructed west of Arkansas City, north to south through Cowley County, with much controversy over tax exemption and environmental concerns (if a leak ever occurs).


Arkansas City is located at 37°3′55″N 97°2′23″W / 37.06528°N 97.03972°W / 37.06528; -97.03972 (37.065267, −97.039608). The city is situated along the northern bank of the Arkansas River and to the west of its confluence with the Walnut River. It is located at the junction of U.S. Route 77 and U.S. Route 166, only four miles (6.4 km) north of the Kansas-Oklahoma border. Winfield, the county seat, is 13 miles (21 km) north of Arkansas City along US-77, and Strother Field, a general aviation airport, is about eight miles (13 km) north. Arkansas City is located 54 miles (87 km) southeast of Wichita.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 9.38 square miles (24.29 km2), of which 9.36 square miles (24.24 km2) is land and 0.02 square miles (0.05 km2) is water.


The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Arkansas City has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 1,012
1890 8,347 724.8%
1900 6,140 −26.4%
1910 7,508 22.3%
1920 11,253 49.9%
1930 13,946 23.9%
1940 12,752 −8.6%
1950 12,903 1.2%
1960 14,262 10.5%
1970 13,216 −7.3%
1980 13,201 −0.1%
1990 12,762 −3.3%
2000 11,963 −6.3%
2010 12,415 3.8%
2020 11,974 −3.6%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 12,415 people, 4,802 households, and 3,030 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,326.4 inhabitants per square mile (512.1/km2). There were 5,646 housing units at an average density of 603.2 per square mile (232.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 79.4% White, 3.9% African American, 2.7% Native American, 0.6% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 8.7% from other races, and 4.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 17.3% of the population.

There were 4,802 households, of which 33.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.4% were married couples living together, 13.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.9% had a male householder with no wife present, and 36.9% were non-families. 31.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.47 and the average family size was 3.07.

The median age in the city was 33.8 years. 26.4% of residents were under the age of 18; 12.7% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 23.3% were from 25 to 44; 22.7% were from 45 to 64; and 14.8% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.3% male and 51.7% female.


Old Arkansas City High School
Old Arkansas City High School (2013)

The community is served by Arkansas City USD 470 public school district.

Professor H. B. Norton first hosted a school in his home when Arkansas City was first established. The public school system began development in 1872.

Cowley College, formerly Cowley County Community College, is located between 1st and 4th streets, and Central and Adams Avenues in Ark City. Cowley is a community college and vocational/technical school with more than 68 majors and degree possibilities. Cowley College celebrates 85 years of innovation and excellence in 2007. (Beginning in 1922 in the basement of Arkansas City High School.) Other campuses include: Aviation Tech Center (Wichita, KS), Allied Health Center (Winfield, KS), Career & Technical Education Center (Mulvane, KS), and Bloomenshine Center (Mulvane, KS). Its primary buildings are the Brown Center Theatre, W.S. Scott Auditorium, Renn-Memorial Library, Kerr Building, Walker Industrial Technology Building, Ben Cleveland Wellness Center, Kerr Building, Galle-Johnson Hall and four separate dormitories: Storbeck, Kirke W. Dale, Docking, and Kimmell. The college also owns one of the old high school buildings (Ireland Hall), which houses its criminal justice and cosmetology classes. The most recent building, Webb-Brown, is located on the Eastern corner of 3rd and Washington, replacing the former Ark City Junior High School.

Notable people

  • Maurice E. Baringer, Iowa State treasurer and state legislator
  • Michael Bradford, playwright and artistic director of the Connecticut Repertory Theatre
  • Darren Daulton, baseball player for the Philadelphia Phillies and Florida Marlins
  • Frank Davis, American journalist, poet, political and labor movement activist, born in Arkansas City
  • Robert Docking, Mayor of Arkansas City, Governor of Kansas, 1967–1975
  • Robert Eaton, automobile businessman, grew up in Arkansas City
  • Lionel Hollins, former NBA professional basketball player and former head coach of the Brooklyn Nets
  • Richard Killblane, author and military historian, born in Arkansas City and attended first two years of elementary school.
  • Anna Larkin, folk sculptor, lived in Arkansas City upon moving to the United States
  • Nila Mack, actress, writer and director, golden age radio program Let's Pretend
  • Dick Metz, professional golfer, born in Arkansas City
  • Leslie Miller, former professional football player, born in Arkansas City
  • Jack Mitchell, football head coach, Arkansas and Kansas, born in Arkansas City
  • Billy Mize, musician, born in Arkansas City
  • Willie Oates, philanthropist, social activist, and politician, born in Arkansas City
  • Helen Parsons, biochemist, born in Arkansas City
  • Jim Sheets, Republican politician in Arkansas, former executive director of Kiwanis International Foundation
  • Euclid Sherwood, commonly known as Motorhead Sherwood, vocalist and saxophonist for The Mothers of Invention during the band's early years

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Arkansas City (Kansas) para niños

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