The Port of Kansas City is part of the Missouri and Mississippi River Systems. The Port of Kansas City is about 318 nautical miles upriver (381 kilometers or 237 miles west direct) from the Port of Saint Louis. The Port of Kansas City is also almost 350 kilometers (210 miles) north-northeast of Tulsa's Port of Catoosa. Located on the Missouri River where it meets the Kansas River, the Port of Kansas City is part of urban complex that also includes Kansas City, Kansas, Kansas City, Missouri, and several smaller municipalities in the surrounding area. The 2010 US Census reported a population of almost 460 thousand people in the Port of Kansas City and a population of more than two million in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
Once known for livestock handling and meat packing, the Port of Kansas City's stockyards have disappeared; however, it is still a marketing and shipping center for the surrounding agricultural region. The Port of Kansas City has vast grain storage and food processing facilities based on crops that include corn, soybeans, and wheat and dairy products. The Port of Kansas City is an important Mid-West distribution hub at the center of vast rail and trucking systems in addition to the port facilities. Other important facets of the local economy include manufacturing, tourism (including gambling), and research and development for agricultural products. The Port of Kansas City is also well known for its role in the jazz and blues music scenes.
The indigenous Otoe people were once part of the Great Lakes Sioux Nation known as the Winnebago. A large number of the people began to migrate to the south and west from the Great Lakes region, splitting again as it moved toward what would become the Port of Kansas City. Eventually, the group became three indigenous tribes: the Otoe, the Missouria, and the Ioway.
The Otoe settled in the lower river valley of the Nemaha River around the future Port of Kansas City. Adopting a semi-nomadic horse culture typical of other Great Plains tribes, American bison became the base of their diet and culture.
In 1763, the Spanish gained control of the Port of Kansas City area through the Treaty of Paris; however, they never played an important role outside taxing and licensing river traffic on the Missouri. The French traded furs there under a Spanish license.
After the Louisiana Purchase expanded the United States, the Lewis and Clark Expedition traveled up the Missouri River, meeting with the Otoe in 1804 at a place that would come to be known as Council Bluff on the river's west bank.
In 1821, Francois Chouteau established Chouteau's Landing in what would become the Port of Kansas City, bringing the first white settlers to the area. John Calvin McCoy laid out the plat for Westport just south of Chouteau's Landing in 1834. Westport (the future Port of Kansas City) became a busy outfitting post for settlers traveling further west. Westbound settlers used Independence, Missouri, less than ten miles to the east, as the main river port for supplies.
Following the buffalo herds, the indigenous Otoe were based around the mouth of the Platte River in the future State of Nebraska from 1817 until 1841. During this period, the surviving Missouria people re-joined the Otoe. Traders gave the people alcohol, and it was cited as a problem in the 1830s. Some would trade vital goods for alcohol, and alcohol dependence was widespread within the Otoe.
After contact with the Europeans, the Otoe-Missouria people were plagued with smallpox, and their numbers fell dramatically. Living on good farm lands, the Otoe were soon being overrun by white settlers. They fought to drive the whites from their lands, and the United States government took action to protect the settlers. The Otoe-Missouria people ceded most of their lands in eastern Nebraska to the United States government in 1854, although they continued to own the lands of the Oto Reservation and beside the Big Blue River that is now the Kansas-Nebraska border.
Losing business to the port at Independence, Missouri, John McCoy moved his landing closer to today's Port of Kansas City, attracting riverboats. Westport became important as a terminus for the Oregon, California, and Santa Fe trails. In 1850, it was chartered as a town under the name Kansas (for the Kansa Indians). In 1889, the Port of Kansas City was chartered as a city separate from the territory.
In the 1850s during the heyday of the steamboat, the Port of Kansas City welcomed many 76-meter (250-foot) four-decked steamboats that carried up to 700 tons of cargo or 300 passengers along the Missouri River.
In early 1880, half of the Otoe people had moved to Indian Territory and lived with the Sac and Fox Nation in Oklahoma. With continued pressure from white settlers, the remaining Otoe near the Port of Kansas City finally sold the Big Blue reservation and moved to Oklahoma.
In 1887 when the Dawes Act was passed, Otoe-Missouria lands were broken up, and "surplus" lands went to white settlers and the railroads. Before long, the Otoe had lost half of their property. Joining the Otoe-Missouria that were already in Oklahoma, the tribe bought a new reservation in what is now Noble and Pawnee Counties, Oklahoma.
In the 1960s, the Otoe eventually fought back in the US courts and received judgment on their land claims. Based in Red Rock Oklahoma today, the Otoe-Missouria Tribe is now recognized by the Federal government. There are almost 3000 Otoe living in Oklahoma, but other tribal members live outside the reservation.
The period of the American Civil War brought sharp divisions to the Port of Kansas City, as it was on the border between slave state Missouri and free state Kansas. The Port of Kansas City fell prey to raids by Confederate guerilla William C. Quantrill. It was also the site of the War's last major battle west of the Mississippi River in 1864 when Union troops forced the Confederate army to retreat from the Port of Kansas City.
In 1865, the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad linked the Port of Kansas City with Saint Louis. When a stockyard opened there in 1870, the Port of Kansas City became a key Mid-West cattle market and meat-packing center.
In the early 20th Century, the Port of Kansas City continued to grow. Both World Wars brought economic growth to the Port of Kansas City. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Port of Kansas City's style of jazz brought it to the attention of the music world. When streetcars appeared in the Port of Kansas City, the first suburbs began to grow.
In the 1930s, the Port of Kansas City's Municipal Wharf Freight Terminal Building was opened. In 1835, diesel-powered towboats and barges began visiting the Port of Kansas City when the government-owned Federal Barge Lines pioneered commercial traffic on the Missouri.
After World War II, the Port of Kansas City population began to move to the suburbs. The Port of Kansas City annexed land, increasing the city's size dramatically. About 400 thousand people lived in the Port of Kansas City in 1940. The Port of Kansas City's population peaked in 1970 then declined until reaching a plateau in the 1990s. By the beginning of the 21st Century, less than 200 thousand people lived in the area of the mid-century city.
In 1947, the Mid-West Terminal opened for operations at the Municipal Wharf of the Port of Kansas City. By 1958, commercial traffic reached over 596 thousand tons of cargo that included iron and steel products, grains and molasses, chemicals, petroleum products, and building materials.
From 1964 through 1968, new wooden storage structures were built at the Port of Kansas City's Mid-West Terminal for bulk agricultural products and fertilizers. In 1977, commercial river traffic peaked in the Port of Kansas City at 3.5 million tons. The same year, the City Planning Commission designated the Port of Kansas City a blighted area.
In 1981, a major disaster occurred in the Port of Kansas City as 114 people died when the Hyatt Regency walkway collapsed during a tea dance. The collapse was the most deadly structural collapse in US history at the time.
In 1985, the US Army Corps of Engineers reported commercial traffic between St. Louis and the Port of Kansas City at 1.8 million tons, including 776.8 thousand tons of farm products, 611.2 thousand tons of chemicals and fertilizers, and 385.1 thousand tons of food, fruits and vegetables, and animal feeds.
By 1990, cement was the Port of Kansas City's primary outbound cargo, making up 66% of freight barged out of the port. Asphalt was the main inbound cargo, reaching almost 60% of all inbound barge freight through the Port of Kansas City. Major companies using the Port of Kansas City to ship freight included the Missouri-Portland Cement Company, Farmland Industries Inc., and Chemtech Industries.
In 2003, cargo shipped through the Port of Kansas City on the Missouri River dropped to 600 thousand tons. Beginning in 2007, the Port of Kansas City lease was not renewed, and the property stood vacant. In 2010, the port authority applied for a grant to develop and reopen the Port of Kansas City, but the application was not approved. In 2011, the port authority applied for funding with the city for engineering and construction of port facility improvements. In 2012, the Port of Kansas City made minimal upgrades, planning to reopen the port in late summer.