The Elk River, a picturesque stream of southeastern Kansas, rises in the northwest corner of Elk County, flows in a southeasterly direction past the towns of Western Park, Howard, Elk Falls, Longton, Oak Valley, and Elk City before emptying into the Verdigris River not far from Independence in Montgomery County. The river is about 80 miles long.
Between Elk City and Independence, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dam causes the river to form Elk City Lake, where a state park and federal lands along the lake offer recreation, including three National Recreation Trails.
The 15-mile-long Elk River Hiking Trail is one of 8 Wonders of Kansas Geography because the trail, on the edge of the Chautauqua Hills region, threads through boulders and up rocky bluffs and has been rated the best hike in the state. The trail is located at Elk City Lake, which is approximately one mile west of Independence, north of U.S. 160.