The rock ledge along the Missouri River that gave birth to Kansas City

1. Introduction

I want to talk to you today about a rock ledge along the south bank of the Missouri River at Kansas City that served as an all-weather landing (or wharf) for thousands of steamboats over an interval of 75 years.

rock ledge along the missouri river

The rock landing speeded up the development of Kansas City by 2 or 3 decades and is testimony to the benefit that geology has contributed to the building of a city.



2. River boat landings and wagon trails, 1833 the location of the rock landing on the South bank of the Missouri River is shown with a star.

wagon trails of Independece Missouri and Westport landing

3. The first Use of the rock ledge that gave birth to Kansas City, 1833.

A steamboat landing is the first use of the rock ledge.


4. North-south cross section of the Missouri River bluff at Kansas City.

Cross Section of the Missouri River Bluff at Kansas City.

There are 2 major groups of rocks underlying the bluff.

5. The bedrock underlying kansas city consists of alternating layers of limestone and shale. The 20 ft thick limestone bed at the center of the photo is the bethany falls.

Alternating layers of limestone and shale.jpg.


6. Section of loess exposed in excavation for Highway 210 at North Kansas City.

Alternating layers of limestone and shale.jpg.

7. Loess is unconsolidated silt and easily eroded by rivulets of water, Highway 210 & I-435 road cut, 2003.

Loes is unconsolidated silt easily eroded by rivulets of water.

8. Thickness of loess deposits in greater Kansas City area.

Thickness of loess deposits in greater Kansas City area.

9. German etching showing Kansas City, Missouri circa 1853. This view is believed to have been based on a daguerrotype made about 1848.

Alternating layers of limestone and shale.jpg.

10. . the town settlement embraced -- even hugged -- the rock landing then straggled away toward the south over the hills.

The Town of Kansas in 1871..

11. New settlers -- a buggy and covered wagons among the bluffs and graded road -- an early spring view at 2nd and Delaware streets.

Alternating layers of limestone and shale.jpg.

12. Gillis House and rock landing between Delaware and Wyandotte streets, 1867.

Gillis House and rock landing between Delaware and Wyandotte streets, 1867.

13.

Construction materials to build the Hannibal Bridge were stored on 
the rock landing, 1867.

14. Laying the Cornerstone for the Hannibal Bridge, 1867.

Laying the Cornerstone for the Hannibal Bridge, 1867.

15. Northern view of the Hannibal Bridge under construction, 1868.

Northern view of the Hannibal Bridge under construction, 1868.

16. "Gulley Town". a grid of man made canyons lead from the river front, late 1860's and early 1870's.

'Gulley Town'. A grid of man made canyons lead from the river front, 
    late 1860's and early 1870'.

17. Wyandotte street circa 1868. It was no easy task going uphill on the winding path.

Wyandotte street circa 1868. It was no easy task going uphill on the winding path.

18. Roads were cut through a towering bluff of loess, 4th and grand avenue, looking west, 1868.

Roads were cut through a towering bluff of loess, 4th and
    grand avenue, looking west, 1868.

19. Deep gorge between 2nd and 3rd streets. 1871.

Deep gorge between 2nd and 3rd streets. 1871.

20. Removing a burnt out building on rock levee at foot of Walnut street, 1870

Removing a burnt out building on rock levee at foot of Walnut street, 1870.

21. Removing the blanket of loess. The site is being graded for construction of the Nelson Hotel, Northeastern corner of 2nd and Main streets june 1869.

The site is being graded for 
</a>    construction of the Nelson Hotel...

22. Walnut street between 2nd and 3rd streets, looking South, 1868.

Walnut street between 2nd and 3rd streets, looking South, 1868.

23. Southeastern corner of Delaware and 3rd street, 1868.

Southeastern corner of Delaware and 3rd street, 1868.

24. 2nd street between Delaware and Main streets, May 1869. Mechanics Bank building on left.

2nd street between Delaware and Main streets, May  1869. Mechanics 
    Bank building on.

25. 2nd street between Delaware and Main streets, 1871. Mechanics Bank building on left and a large new building on the right .

2nd street between Delaware and Main streets, 1871. Mechanics Bank 
    building on left and a large new building on the right.

26. Looking south on Walnut street between 7th and 8th streets, 1870. the Argentine limestone is being uncovered from under a cover of loess.

Looking south on Walnut street between 7th and 8th streets, 1870. the 
    Argentine limestone is being uncovered from under a cover of.

27. Delaware street looking south from 3rd street. the building on right is built on limestone bedrock.

Delaware street looking south from 3rd street. the building on right is 
    built on limestone bedrock.

28. Baltimore Avenue looking north from 11th street about 1890. the Argentine limestone is exposed about at street level. a thick section of loess overs the bedrock on the left whereas the building on the right is on bedrock. New York Life building at end of street.

New York Life building at end of street, 1890.

29. Railroad tracks & the river front park occupy the site of the former Town of Kansas in this modern day photo.

Railroad tracks & the river front park occupy the site of the former 
    Town of Kansas in this modern day photo.

30. The arrow marks location of the southern most expansion of the Town of Kansas. The row of buildings are along 2nd street and south of the vegetation covered steep bluff.

The arrow marks location of the southern most expansion of the 
    Town of Kansas.

31. Passengers disembarking from river boats once climbed these concrete stairs to the town of kansas.

Passengers disembarking from river boats once climbed these 
    concrete stairs to the town of kansas.

32. Town of Kansas bridge, an extension of Main street.

Town of Kansas bridge, an extension of Main street.

33. Plaques on bridge pillar mark high water levels of 3 major floods.

Plaques on bridge pillar mark high water levels of 3 major floods.

34. High water levels of 1951, 1844 and 1993 floods.

High water levels of 1951, 1844 and 1993 floods.

35. Crest of 1951 flood. The rock levee was covered by about 20 feet of fill after this flood.

Crest of 1951 flood.

36. Crest of 1844 flood; the Town of Kansas was washed away.

Crest of 1844 flood; the Town of Kansas was washed away.

37. Crest of 1993 flood.

Crest of 1993 flood.

38. The rock ledge is still partially exposed in this river front photo, 2000. Only the rumble of passing trains breaks the silence.

The rock ledge is still partially exposed on the river front.

39. The Bethany Falls limestone member forms the rock ledge, photo taken 2004.

The Bethany Falls limestone member forms the rock ledge, photo taken 2004.

40. Close-up of the Bethany Falls limestone. The upper few feet is thick- bedded and formed a stable wharf.

Close-up of the Bethany Falls limestone.

41. A piece of kansas city's past is rediscovered. "Kansas City is literally built around this rock ledge," says geologist, Dr. Richard J. Gentile. Debris and myth had obscured the rock, the city's first wharf. (Kansas City Star article, November 27,2003)

'Kansas City is literally 
    built around this rock ledge,' says geologist, Dr. Richard J. Gentile.

42. River front looking West, 2012. The cables on the piers were used to tie- up boats. The Bethany Falls ledge is about at position of the arrow.

The cables on the piers were used to tie-
    up boats.

43. Dr. Richard J. Gentile, August 2013.

Dr. Richard J. Gentile, August 2013.