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Digital Douglas County History

Floods

Since its founding, Lawrence has dealt with a multitude of floods. The 1903 flood is one of the more noteable floods due to the amount of damage it caused, but the flood in 1908 is also worth noting as indicated by the amout of postcards depicting it.

Postcard of the Kaw Flooding

One of the more interesting postcards in the Fitzpatrick-Postma Collection, this postcard immortalizes Karl Curz. The background behind the photograph of a young man standing proudly in his swimsuit printed next a photograph of a flooded Kaw created much speculation among library staff. The note on the back of the postcard states that the young man swam up the Kaw and past the dam without even stopping. A curious story, we thought it ended with the postcard until a staff member found a Lawrence Journal-World article from June 15, 1908 about Carl Kurz, a young man who swam up the raging Kaw.

The article informs us that at the time of the event Kurz was twenty years old and a native of Colorado Springs. A traveling plumber, the young man had just finished working in Panama. The article described the event as one of the most "remarkable" feats to ever be seen in Lawrence. The crowd that Kurz had drawn prompted him to advertise that he would gladly swim up the dam again, but this time for $10.

The majority of the floods in Lawrence have been due to heavy rain fall. In January of 1910, the areas of Lawrence next to the Kaw were flooded because of a massive ice gorge preventing any water to flow away from Lawrence.