Marais des Cygnes River

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Marais des Cygnes River
Big Osage River, Brush Creek, Grand River, Old Aunt Mary River[1]
Papinville Marais des Cygnes River Bridge -- South Elevation.jpg
Map of the Osage River watershed including the Marais des Cygnes River
CountryUnited States
StateKansas, Missouri
Physical characteristics
Source confluence 
 ⁃ locationLyon County, Kansas
 ⁃ coordinates38°34′05″N 95°58′28″W / 38.56806°N 95.97444°W / 38.56806; -95.97444
 ⁃ elevation1,112 ft (339 m)
MouthOsage River
 ⁃ location
Vernon County, Missouri
 ⁃ coordinates
38°01′39″N 94°14′39″W / 38.02750°N 94.24417°W / 38.02750; -94.24417Coordinates: 38°01′39″N 94°14′39″W / 38.02750°N 94.24417°W / 38.02750; -94.24417[1]
 ⁃ elevation
722 ft (220 m)
Length217 mi (349 km)
 ⁃ locationUSGS 06916600 near Kansas-Missouri state line[2]
 ⁃ average2,189 cu ft/s (62.0 m3/s)
 ⁃ minimum0 cu ft/s (0 m3/s)
 ⁃ maximum129,000 cu ft/s (3,700 m3/s)
Basin features
 ⁃ left110 Mile Creek, Bull Creek
 ⁃ rightPottawatomie Creek
WatershedsMarais des Cygnes-Osage-Missouri-Mississippi

The Marais des Cygnes River (/ˌmɛər də ˈzn, - ˈsn, ˈmɛər də zn/,[3][4] also /məˌr də ˈsn, məˌr də ˈsn/,[citation needed] French: [maʁɛ de siɲ]) is a principal tributary of the Osage River, about 217 miles (349 km) long,[5] in eastern Kansas and western Missouri in the United States. Via the Osage and Missouri rivers, it is part of the watershed of the Mississippi River.

The name Marais des Cygnes means "Marsh of the Swans" in French (presumably in reference to the trumpeter swan which was historically common in the Midwest).

The river is notorious for flash flooding. It is referred to in the song "The River" by Chely Wright. La Cygne, Kansas in Linn County and Osawatomie, Kansas in Miami County are gravely affected by its flooding.


The Marais des Cygnes is formed about 1 mile north of Reading, Kansas, a city in northern Lyon County, by the confluence of Elm Creek and One Hundred Forty-Two Mile Creek, and flows generally east-southeastwardly through Osage, Franklin, Miami and Linn counties in Kansas, and Bates County in Missouri, past the Kansas towns of Melvern, Quenemo, Ottawa, Osawatomie and La Cygne and through the Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge. In Missouri, it joins the Little Osage River at the boundary of Bates and Vernon counties to form the Osage River, 6 miles (10 km) west of Schell City.

In Osage County, Kansas, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dam causes the river to form Melvern Lake, which is the site of Eisenhower State Park.


The Marais des Cygnes River has a history of flooding. One of the first such floods that has been noted is the Great Flood of 1844 known as "Big Water" in Native American legend. Though no measurements were taken, it is estimated to have crested at 40 feet (12 m).

Some of the more notable floods after 1844 include the 1909 flood, cresting at 36.3 feet (11.1 m); the 1915 flood, cresting at 31 feet (9.4 m); the 1928 flood, cresting at 38.65 feet (11.78 m); the 1944 flood, cresting at 36.5 feet (11.1 m); the 1951 flood, cresting at 42.97 feet (13.10 m); and the 2007 flood, cresting at 36.07 feet (10.99 m).[6]

The Great Flood of 1951 happened in June and July 1951, killing 28 people and causing over $935 million damage (in 1951 dollars). This flood also affected the Kansas, Neosho, and Verdigris river basins.

As a result of the 1951 flood, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built levees and flood control systems on the Marais des Cygnes in the 1960s, including massive freestanding gated floodwalls in Ottawa, Kansas. Main Street (Old U.S. Highway 59) in Ottawa has to be detoured or is simply closed down when the gates are shut.

Variant names[edit]

The United States Board on Geographic Names settled on "Marais des Cygnes River" as the name in 1971.[1] According to the Geographic Names Information System, the river has also been known as:

  • Big Osage River
  • Brush Creek
  • Grand River
  • Le Marais du Cygne River
  • Marais Des Cygnes River
  • Marias des Cygnes River
  • Mary de Zene River
  • Miry Disein River
  • Old Aunt Mary River
  • Osage River
  • Riviere des Osages

It is most often pronounced Mare D' Zeen river by those who live nearby it.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Marais des Cygnes River". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2015-11-05.
  2. ^ "Water-Data Report 2013 - 06916600 Marais des Cygnes River near Kansas-Missouri State Line, KS" (PDF). U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2015-11-05.
  3. ^ "Marais des Cygnes". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2014. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  4. ^ "Marais des Cygnes". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  5. ^ U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map Archived 2012-03-29 at the Wayback Machine, accessed May 31, 2011
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-06-15. Retrieved 2010-05-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Pictures of the Flood of 2007 in La Cygne, KS