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De Soto, Kansas
Water tower (2017)
Water tower (2017)
De Soto Kansas Logo.jpg
Location within Johnson County and Kansas
Location within Johnson County and Kansas
KDOT map of Johnson County (legend)
Country United States
State Kansas
Counties Johnson, Leavenworth
Townships Lexington, Sherman
Founded 1828
Platted 1857
Incorporated October 1, 1897
Named for Hernando de Soto
 • Type Mayor–Council
 • Total 11.28 sq mi (29.22 km2)
 • Land 11.15 sq mi (28.89 km2)
 • Water 0.13 sq mi (0.33 km2)
860 ft (260 m)
 • Total 6,118
 • Density 542.38/sq mi (209.38/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
66018, 66019
Area code 913
FIPS code 20-17850
GNIS ID 479178

De Soto is a city in Johnson and Leavenworth counties in the U.S. state of Kansas, and part of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. As of the 2020 census, the population of the city was 6,118. De Soto was incorporated as a city on October 1, 1897.


De Soto began in the spring of 1857, named for sixteenth-century Spanish explorer, Hernando De Soto. In 1858, John Possum, a Shawnee Indian, and Hattie Possum sold 80 acres to John F. Legate, S. Todd and Stratton and Williams for $1,200. The next sale was 80 acres to the De Soto Town Company in July 1861 for $1,176. Major James B. Abbott is remembered as one of the town's pioneer landowners and the builder of Abbot Hall. Today, Abbot Hall is one of two town museums.

With the construction of the 9,080 acre Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant south of De Soto, De Soto's population boomed in the early 1940s during WWII. In May 1943, The Kansas City Star article reported "a town rapidly growing, with a population increase from 400 to 1,000 persons in under a year". This sudden overflow in population put a great strain on housing and other resources in the city; however, many original residents prospered during this time, buying property and starting new businesses. Production flowed steadily at the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant until the plant went on standby in March 1948, with small scale production following shortly after until its closure in 1993.

Flooding in De Soto Kansas1951
Main Street during flood (1951)

1951 flood

In mid-July 1951, heavy rains led to a great rise of water in the Kansas River and other surrounding areas of the central United States, known as the Great Flood of 1951. De Soto, being along the Kansas River, was severely damaged. The river crest at De Soto was recorded at 24.87 feet (7.58 m). Most of the downtown area was completely flooded, with over 2 feet of standing water in some places.

Recent Growth

After the 2008 Recession came to an end, growth in De Soto has steadily picked up, with new commercial development in the K-10 Business District, an expansion of a major food production and medicine testing facilities and two new large 144-unit apartment complexes expected to be completed by 2018.

Lexington Lake Park is under construction and is expected to open just west of De Soto by mid-2017. When completed this park will be the third-largest park in Johnson County.

Arbor Ridge subdivision is a housing development which will enter phase 2 in 2017, allowing construction of 46, two-story housing units.


De Soto is located at 38°57′54″N 94°57′44″W / 38.96500°N 94.96222°W / 38.96500; -94.96222 (38.965081, -94.962285) along the Kansas River. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 11.20 square miles (29.01 km2), of which, 11.07 square miles (28.67 km2) is land and 0.13 square miles (0.34 km2) is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 35
1870 102 191.4%
1880 141 38.2%
1890 223 58.2%
1900 226 1.3%
1910 240 6.2%
1920 255 6.3%
1930 384 50.6%
1940 383 −0.3%
1950 518 35.2%
1960 1,271 145.4%
1970 1,839 44.7%
1980 2,061 12.1%
1990 2,291 11.2%
2000 4,561 99.1%
2010 5,720 25.4%
2020 6,118 7.0%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 5,720 people, 2,007 households, and 1,523 families residing in the city. The population density was 516.7 inhabitants per square mile (199.5/km2). There were 2,204 housing units at an average density of 199.1 per square mile (76.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 89.7% White, 0.8% African American, 0.8% Native American, 0.4% Asian, 5.9% from other races, and 2.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 14.6% of the population.

There were 2,007 households, of which 41.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.4% were married couples living together, 10.5% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 24.1% were non-families. 19.0% of all households were made up of individuals, and 6.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.83 and the average family size was 3.25.

The median age in the city was 35.4 years. 28.6% of residents were under the age of 18; 8.8% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 26.5% were from 25 to 44; 26.3% were from 45 to 64; and 9.9% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 50.2% male and 49.8% female.

Arts and culture

Between 1999 and 2000, a barn that had originally been built in the 1880s was moved piece by piece from a farmstead and placed on the Zimmerman farm at the northwest corner of the Kill Creek Road and K-10 interchange. The barn was historically called the White-Waitmann barn but after its erection in 2000, by contractors and community volunteers, it also became known as the Zimmerman barn. The barn was not only a piece of American history, but it became well known throughout the community because the owner, Darrel Zimmerman, allows the public to pay a fee and use the barn for events such as weddings, graduations, and other meetings. However, a fierce storm demolished the barn in May 2010. The barn was rebuilt in 2013, after it was determined that Zimmerman could not locate another historic-looking barn to move on the location.

The Day After was filmed from Edgerton Road to the main De Soto exit K-285(Lexington Ave) on K-10 as Interstate 70.

Regional Attractions

Riverfest Park

De Soto is home to the Riverfest Park and Amphitheater, first opened in 2006. This park serves as De Soto's main venue for concerts and festivals. The venue has undergone renovations to add a playground, gravel parking lot and riverfront benches. Plans to add permanent parking, a stage and Recreational vehicle plaza are in the works.

De Soto Days Festival

The city has been the host of the annual De Soto Days Festival. The fair begins on the Thursday before Labor Day and runs until the holiday itself, making it the third longest Labor Day festival in the County. The fair has booths and three stages, entertaining 15,000 patrons annually on the 5 operating days.

Winesong at Riverfest

Winesong at Riverfest is a major cultural attraction for the Kansas City area. The event, which began in 2012, is a wine festival hosted by the De Soto Rotary Club annually in early June. The event features wineries from the Midwest, and includes samples, appetizers, music and art competitions. Annual attendance is 1,000.

Harvest Fest

The 1st Annual Harvest Fest in Downtown De Soto was held on 22 October 2016. The event featured a food truck crawl, bouncy houses, pumpkin decorating, face painting, costume contest, balloons, "Main Street Crafters" and music. Attendance was in the hundreds.

Cookin' on the Kaw

Cookin' on the Kaw is an annual blues and barbecue event at Riverfest Park hosted by the De Soto Chamber of Commerce. The event has several booths, one stage, a BBQ contest, beauty contests and a variety of other entertainment which attracts between 3,000 and 7,000 patrons annually on the 2 operating days.


Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant
Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant, located in De Soto (2005)


De Soto is served by several highways:

  • K-10 runs through most portions of southern De Soto. Two exits have a direct connection to De Soto.
    • Exit – Edgerton Road
    • Exit – Lexington Avenue, formerly K-285 (Decommissioned in 1999)
    • Exit – Kill Creek Road
  • K-32 runs about 5 miles (8 km) north of De Soto. Two junctions have a direct connection to De Soto.
    • Junction – 189th Street CR-26(Leavenworth County)
    • Junction – 158th Street CR-2(Leavenworth County)
  • S. Wyandotte Road / 158th Street CR-2(Leavenworth County)
  • CR-3(Leavenworth County)
  • CR-26(Leavenworth County)
  • CR-32(Leavenworth County)
  • West 103rd Street / Lexington Avenue / West 83rd Street runs through De Soto. East on 83rd Street is Lenexa and Overland Park, west is Lawrence. West 103rd Street comes in from Lawrence, runs south of the city, turns into a four-lane road near Sunflower Nature Park and travels north into the city as Lexington Avenue until an intersection with West 83rd Street, and then turns east towards Lenexa.
  • Kill Creek Road runs through eastern portions De Soto. South on Kill Creek Road is a connector road to Olathe and Gardner. Kill Creek Road comes in from rural Johnson County, runs into the city, and end at an intersection with West 83rd Street.


De Soto was settled in 1828 as a city along the Kansas River. Several years later, in 1857, the Atchison, Topeka, Santa Fe Railway constructed track through northern portions of town, parallel to the river. De Soto's train depot was constructed along a siding around 1860. In 1900, a railyard was constructed east of town to allow the switching of freight cars from Topeka to Kansas City. The yard consisted of seven rails along the main line and siding. Portions of the yard are still in use today to store unused freight cars. However, only three lines remain, as the others were removed to save on maintenance.

In 1942, during the construction of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant, the U.S. army constructed a spur through De Soto to connect the plant to a main rail line. To this day the spur is used for the industrial district shipments.


Downtown De Soto at dusk (2017)

Two local corporations, Great American Bank and Custom Foods, Inc., and one national corporation, Goodcents Deli Fresh Subs, are headquartered in De Soto. Huhtamaki Americas, Inc. and Engineered Air, two international enterprises, chose De Soto for their North American headquarters. In addition, Merck Animal Health, one of the world's leading manufacturers of animal health supplies, selected De Soto for one of its four U.S. manufacturing facilities. Rehrig Pacific, a plastics manufacturer, chose De Soto to house their Midwestern U.S. operations. In 2019, Biodesix, a lung cancer research company, opened a testing and research laboratory in De Soto.

Largest employers

as of January 2020, the largest employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 De Soto School District 1,655
2 Engineered Air 870
3 Huhtamaki 640
4 Merck Animal Health 180
5 Rehrig Pacific 110
6 Custom Foods Inc 110
7 Goodcent's Deli Fresh Subs Headquarters 95
8 Hillside Village 86


The city of De Soto is served by the De Soto school district.

  • De Soto School District


The Johnson County Library System maintains the De Soto Downtown Library.

In a 2006 downtown revitalization plan, the city states that it plans to open a municipal-maintained library.

Notable people

Notable individuals who were born in and/or have lived in De Soto include:

  • Stanley Adams (1922-1999), U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel, Medal of Honor Recipient
  • Howard Gloyd (1902-1978), herpetologist
  • Greyson Jenista (1996), Atlanta Braves minor league, right fielder
  • Frank Lee (1873-1952), U.S. Representative from Missouri
  • John Outland (1871-1941), American Football Player and Coach
  • Kenneth Spencer (1902-1960)

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See also

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