Kaw City: The Lake-town of Kay County


I would love to tell you all that Kaw City has a giant mountain filled with much smaller mountains and caves of gold, but alas, I cannot.  Modern Kaw City is now surrounded by Kaw Lake though.  Much like Tolkien’s Lake-town, there are ruins of the old town that one can see on a good day.  The water has to be really clear and still, but they are still there.  You can also see what remains of the old town of Washunga if you know where to look.  To do that though you need to walk quite a bit or have a 4-wheeler. My parents used to take me around the area when I was a baby.  Here is a bit about the old cities!

Washunga was located nearby and you can actually go see where it was as long as Washunga Bay isn’t flooding like it was when I went to visit the other day.  Washunga was named after the last chief of the Kaw Nation.  Both towns were located on the Oxbow Bend of the Arkansas River.  Those remaining at the old town-site of Washunga moved to new Kaw City along with the old Kaw Nation Agency.  Old Kaw City was located south of Washunga.  Old Kaw City isn’t too far from where the new Kaw City is now located.  As mentioned earlier, you can actually see the ruins of the old city on clear days with still water.  New Kaw City is on the hill that at overlooks the old city.

Old Kaw CityThanks to Google maps you can actually see the some of the old ruins of the area from the air.  Here are a couple of screen-caps of those areas.  The one on the left is old Kaw City and Washungathe right one is Washunga and the cemetery.  Washunga is pretty easy to get to as long as you don’t mind the walking .  You can also get there by boat since it Washunga Bay recreation area is right there.  The ruins of old Kaw City are quite a bit easier to find as you can see them from the road.  In fact, if you drive east on Old Kaw Road you will go right to them.  Going too far east will land you in the lake, but you can actually take a boat out and look around the ruins.  I guess if you really wanted to be adventurous you could swim around in those areas, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  My reason for that is that when they were moving the remains in the cemeteries of the surrounding communities, they moved the headstones, but not all the bodies got moved.  On occasion we get floaters out at Kaw Lake.  Rarely do they wash up on the beach in Ponca City, but it has happened to the fright of those unlucky enough to find the bodies! 

IMG_0729Way back when, Kaw City was a pretty exciting little town.  It wasn’t the headquarters of the Kaw Nation, but it was still on the reservation.  The city was IMG_0731an oil boom town when you really get down to it.  Washunga was also pretty interesting, since it was pretty much home to the old Kaw Agency.  New Kaw City is home to a couple of interesting museums.  The Kaw City Museum which contains artifacts from the ghost towns surrounding it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to photograph inside the museum, but I did get some pictures outside of it.  This museum is actually in the old train depot.  I was impressed with how nice this little museum is!  Also, you can still one of the old Masonic stones out in front of the building from 1910.  There is also the Kanza Museum that is located at the Kaw Nation headquarters.  That museum is super awesome!  I’m not just saying that because I have friends that are Kaw either.  I don’t have any pictures from there, but I have been there a couple of times.  If you ever get the chance to go through Kaw City, I highly recommend checking out both of these little museums.  

Here is a video for you all that I recorded on my most recent trip out to Kaw City.  Also, check out the websites for the Kaw Nation, the Kanza Museum, and Kaw Lake listed below!


Kaw Nation

Kanza Museum

Kaw Lake