Above the Smoky Hill River

As I flew from St. Louis to Denver this afternoon, the latest winter storm had spread dense cloud cover across the Midwest and Great Plains; my views were thus very limited.  Then, about halfway to Denver, there was a break in the overcast and I saw a river meandering eastward across flat terrain.

Of course, most rivers of the Great Plains flow west to east and meander through relatively soft sediments (Cretaceous and Tertiary in age); the tight curves are often bordered by abandoned meanders and oxbow lakes.  Not sure what route we were taking, the river could have been the Platte, the Republican, the Solomon, the Saline or the Smoky Hill River, not to mention any of their major tributaries.

The mystery was solved as a relatively large city came into view; the river flowed along its eastern edge and a large abandoned meander encircled much of the city.  Considering the size of the city and the fact that we were about halfway between St. Louis and Denver, I realized that the city was Salina, Kansas, and that the river was thus the Smoky Hill River; indeed, I had already noticed what turned out to be the Solomon and Saline rivers entering the Smoky Hill from the north. Ironically, the only other clearing in the overcast was along the Kansas-Colorado border where I observed the uppermost tributaries of the Smoky Hill River; the latter rises in eastern Colorado and eventually joins the Republican River in Junction City, Kansas, to form the Kansas River (a major tributary of the Missouri).