Kansas is known for its agriculture, giving it the nickname ‘The Wheat State’. It is also known as ‘The Sunflower State’, as it is home to Mount Sunflower. In addition to this mountain, Kansas is also home to hills, forests, flatlands and rivers.
Two-thirds of Kansas sits within the Great Plains, with the remaining third being hills and forests. Amongst the flatlands, hills and forests are numerous rivers and lakes. When people visit Kansas they often don’t think about going to its lakes, but there are some beautiful ones that are not to be missed. These are the 15 best lakes in Kansas.
1. Wilson Lake; Russell & Lincoln Counties
Wilson Lake was originally built for flood control, but today it is also a popular recreation lake. It is also used for wildlife management.
There are four parks sitting along the lake’s 160 kilometre shoreline, the largest being the Wilson State Park. This public recreational area boasts swimming beaches, hiking trails, boat ramps and camping facilities.
On the northeast end of the 3,660 hectare lake is Lucas Park, which is home to the Rocktown Natural Area. It also has hiking trails, swimming beaches and boat ramps.
2. Milford Lake; Geary, Clay & Dickinson Counties
At 6,400 hectare, Milford Lake is the largest man-made lake in the state. The lake was created during the construction of the Milford Dam along the Republican River.
On the southeast corner of the lake is the Milford State Park. The park is a favourite getaway for outdoor lovers, offering bird watching and fishing.
Visitors come to the lake to enjoy water sports, go picnicking and to view wildlife. It is also possible to go hiking, biking, horseback riding and camping.
3. Tuttle Creek Lake; Pottawatomie, Riley & Marshall Counties
This 5,000 hectare lake sits along the Big Blue River in northeast Kansas. Turtle Creek Lake was initially built for flood control, but today it is a popular recreational lake.
The Tuttle Creek State Park is located at the north end of the lake and boasts an artificial beach. It also hosts the annual Country Stampede Music Festival.
On the north end of the lake is the Fancy Creek State Park, which is known for its 13 kilometre mountain bike trail. There are also plenty of other parks around the lake that offer picnicking, boating, fishing, swimming and camping.
4. Perry Lake; Jefferson County
Known locally as ‘Paradise on the Plains’, Perry Lake is somewhat of a paradise for residents of the cities of Topeka and Lawrence. It is a popular destination that sits in the Dissected Till Plains region and makes for a great weekend escape.
The nationally recognised 47 kilometre Perry Lake Trail is great for hiking, while Perry State Park offers camping. Horseback riding, boating and fishing are also popular things enjoyed at the 4,511 hectare lake.
The lake sits along the Delaware River, with the Perry Dam located at the south end of it. Although many use it recreationally, its primary purpose is for flood control.
5. Kanopolis Lake; Ellsworth County
Located in the Smokey Hills region, Kanopolis Lake sits at an elevation of 446 metres. The 1,378 hectare lake was formed by Kanopolis Dam, which impounds the Smoky Hill River.
The lake is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who also run three lakeside parks. Venango Park is the largest and features a beach, a boat ramp and camping facilities.
The Kanopolis State Park sits at the northeast corner of the lake. It is part of the Prairie Trail Scenic Byway, offering fantastic hiking, horseback riding, cycling and wildlife viewing.
6. Clinton Lake; Douglas County
Clinton Lake is located just southwest of the city of Lawrence, providing it water supply and flood control. It is also a highly popular recreational lake, with the Clinton State Park sitting on the north shore of it.
The Clinton State Park offers extensive hiking and biking, with plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife. There are also boat launches, picnic areas and camping sites.
It is also possible to go swimming, boating and fishing on the lake. In fact, the lake and the state park is the annual site of the Ironman Kansas 70.3 triathlon.
7. El Dorado Lake; Butler County
This 3,200 hectare lake was built on the Walnut River for flood control. It is also used for water supply and for recreational purposes.
The El Dorado State Park sits along the southern shores of the lake, offering boating, camping and hiking. Many also come to go fishing for walleye, crappie, largemouth bass and channel catfish.
There are swimming area within the state park, as well as an amphitheatre and picnic areas. The park also offers horseback riding and even has a horse campground.
8. Big Hill Lake; Labette County
Big Hill Lake sits in the southeast corner of Kansas between the cities of Cherryvale and Parsons. The 500 hectare lake is a popular spot for recreational activities, not only amongst locals, but also tourists.
The lake boasts a sandy beach as well as picnic areas, boat ramps and campsites. Many people also come to go fishing and water skiing, and to enjoy other water sports.
The 27 kilometre long Big Hill Horse Trail is located along the lake and in its surrounding area. The trail features a variety of terrain, making it enjoyable for people of all ages and skills.
9. Fall River Lake; Greenwood County
Sitting along the Fall River, Fall River Lake is a popular spot to enjoy recreational activities. The lake attracts visitors of all ages who come to enjoy swimming, water skiing, boating and picnicking.
The lake is also popular amongst anglers thanks to its abundance of white bass, crappie, bluegill and channel catfish. Its surroundings also attract birdwatchers from all over the world.
Camping facilities are available at the Fall River State Park, which sits along the lake’s south shoreline. The park also boasts six hiking trails!
10. Elk City Lake; Montgomery County
This 1,800 hectare reservoir was constructed for flood control, but today it is a popular recreational lake. Elk City Lake is also extremely picturesque, as it is surrounded by rolling meadows.
There are six hiking trails surrounding the lake, two of which have National Trails designations. In addition, there is a 6.5 kilometre biking trail along the river.
The Elk City State Park sits along the east side of the lake. The 346 hectare park offers swimming, boating and camping.
11. Hillsdale Lake; Miami County
Hillsdale Lake is located just 48 kilometres away from Kansas City in the northeast part of the state. The 1,850 hectare lake is known for its V-shape, as well as for being home of the Hillsdale State Park.
The Hillsdale State Park sits at the bottom of the ‘V’, which is at the south end of the lake. It features two great hiking trails, as well as an equestrian area.
The park features a beach, four camping grounds, boat ramps and a day-use area. There is also 82 kilometres of shoreline where fishing is allowed.
12. Council Grove Lake; Morris County
This 1,309 hectare lake was built in 1964 for flood control and water supply. Today, Council Grove Lake is also a popular recreational spot.
There are eight parks surrounding the lake that are managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers. All eight of these parks have camping facilities and offer fishing.
Three of the parks (Canning Creek Cove, Richey Cove and Neosho Park) have hiking trails, while Richey Cove also boasts a swimming beach. It is the only park on the lake’s 64 kilometre shoreline that has a beach.
13. Cheney Reservoir; Sedgwick, Kingman & Reno Counties
Cheney Reservoir stretches across three counties near the centre of Kansas. The 3,860 hectare lake sits at an elevation of 433 metres in the Great Plains area.
The reservoir is located along the North Fork Ninnescah River, and was originally built for flood control and water supply. Today, it is also a popular spot for enjoying recreational activities.
The Cheney State Park sits on both sides of the south end of the lake. The park is divided into two areas (the East Shore Area and the West Shore Area), both of which offer camping sites, boat ramps and swimming beaches.
14. Lake Afton; Sedgwick County
Located just west of Wichita, Lake Afton is a man-made lake that is predominately used for recreation. The 104 hectare lake is easily accessible and as a result is popular amongst Kansas residents, as well as those from further afar.
There is a state run park along the south end of the lake that offers swimming, boating and picnicking. There are also campgrounds within the park, as well as in other spots around the lake’s shoreline.
Fishing is quite popular here, as there are plenty of crappie, largemouth bass, walleye and channel catfish. It is also possible to fish for saugeye, wiper and flathead catfish.
15. Lone Star Lake; Douglas County
This 75 hectare lake lies just southwest of the city of Lone Star in northeast Kansas. It is a small lake, but a serene one thanks to its natural surroundings.
The lake is surrounded by the Lone Star Lake Park, which offers a wide range of recreational activities. These include camping, water skiing, boating, fishing and swimming.
The entire shoreline of the lake is surrounded by the park, making it a popular place for nature lovers who want to relax and get away from it all. It should be noted that campsites are on a first-come, first-serve basis.