Guarding the Grand Watershed

Aug 03, 2022

An aerial view of the confluence of the Neosho and Spring Rivers in far Northeast Oklahoma.Power for Progress… a weekly column from the Grand River Dam Authority.

The Grand River truly belongs to Oklahoma. Flowing for roughly 125 miles in a southwesterly direction, winding through the Ozark Mountain foothills, before giving itself to the larger Arkansas River, just outside of Muskogee, Oklahoma, the river’s beginning, and end are both inside the state.

However, what about those other rivers – the Neosho and the Spring – that come together to create the Grand?

The Neosho (a name which some still give to the Grand as it moves through Oklahoma) has its headwaters in Morris County, Kansas. As it flows in a southeasterly direction through that state, the river – which takes its name from a likely Osage word meaning clear, cold water – also takes in the waters of Kansas’ Cottonwood River, as it flows on towards Oklahoma. Along the route, other Kansas creeks and streams find their way into the Neosho. Overall, 5,830 square miles of the Grand River’s watershed is in Kansas. That is by far the biggest portion in any state and amounts for 57 percent of Grand’s total watershed.

Meanwhile the Spring River (which takes its name from the many springs that feed it) gets its start in Barry County, Missouri before flowing 129 miles through Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas. It helps to form the western boundary of the Ozark Mountains in both states and picks up plenty of small tributaries before joining the Neosho just inside Oklahoma. The Spring’s watershed accounts for roughly 25 percent of Grand’s total watershed, which equals about 2,577 square miles in Missouri and Kansas. While there are other waters that feed the Grand (including the Elk River), the Spring and Neosho are the biggest contributors.

Together, all these waters are part of the Grand River Watershed, which is the focus of GRDA’s “Guard the Grand” program. Established in 2021, the program serves to improve the water quality of the watershed through science education and outreach. That effort includes a multifaceted approach of workshops that target educators, residents, and business within the watershed. You can learn more about the program, and how you can get involved, by visiting the Guard the Grand tab on

GRDA is Oklahoma’s largest public power electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Each day, GRDA strives to be an “Oklahoma agency of excellence” by focusing on the 5 E’s: electricity, economic development, environmental stewardship, employees, and efficiency.