The Verdigris is formed near Madison, Kansas by the convergence of two short headwaters streams, its North and South Forks, and flows generally southward throughout its course. South of Coffeyville, the river enters Oklahoma. It joins the Arkansas River near Muskogee, about a mile upstream of the mouth of the Neosho River.
The river is mentioned in accounts by Zebulon Pike (1806), Thomas Nuttall (1818), and because of the fur trade had numerous trading posts along its route. In the treaty of 1834 with the Cherokee Indians the river was named as a part of the boundary of their lands.
Dams and transportation
Dams built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cause the Verdigris to form Toronto Lake near Toronto, Kansas and Oologah Lake near Oologah, Oklahoma. From just north of Catoosa, Oklahoma to its confluence with the Arkansas, barge traffic is maintained on the river as part of the McClellan-Kerr Navigation System, which consists of a series of locks and dams on both streams and allows commercial navigation between the Tulsa area and the Mississippi River.
In Kansas, the Verdigris collects the Fall River at the town of Neodesha and the Elk River at the town of Independence. In Oklahoma it collects the Caney River in Rogers County.
Flooding was severe in the downstream reaches of the Verdigris River Basin during July 2-4, 1976, as a result of an intense storm over the southeastern part of the State. The storm produced 24-hour precipitation that totaled about 6-13 inches and 2-day precipitation of as much as 16 inches. Generally, precipitation ended during the late afternoon on July 3; however, runoff continued to cause flooding on July 4. The most severe flooding was confined to the main stem and tributaries of the Elk River and tributaries of the Fall and lower Verdigris Rivers.