Kansas is not a state that is naturally rich in lakes, but over the 20th century especially, many reservoirs were constructed in the state to prevent floods, create power, and provide drinking water for its citizens. Today, there are over 120,000 reservoirs in Kansas, and many of them serve recreational purposes as well as functional. Visitors and locals alike will enjoy the varied lakes stocked with walleye, catfish, and bass, the sandy beaches at their shores, and the massive parks full of trails and wildlife that border these pieces of natural paradise.
We recommend that you call the attractions and restaurants ahead of your visit to confirm current opening times.
1.Cedar Bluff Reservoir
3.Clark State Fishing Lake
4.Kansas Lakes: Clinton Lake
5.Crawford State Fishing Lake
6.El Dorado Lake
7.Kansas Lakes: Fall River Lake
8.Glen Elder Lake
9.Kansas Lakes: Hillsdale Lake
12.Kansas Lakes: Kaw Lake
13.Lyon State Fishing Lake
15.Kansas Lakes: Milford Lake
17.Scott State Fishing Lake
18.Tuttle Creek Lake
19.Kansas Lakes: Wilson Lake
20 Best Lakes in Kansas
- Cedar Bluff Reservoir, Photo: Courtesy of Richard - Fotolia.com
- Cheney Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Aleksei - Fotolia.com
- Clark State Fishing Lake, Photo: Courtesy of glebchik - Fotolia.com
- Kansas Lakes: Clinton Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Kristina - Fotolia.com
- Crawford State Fishing Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Tobias - Fotolia.com
- El Dorado Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Rusty Dodson - Fotolia.com
- Kansas Lakes: Fall River Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Nathanael - Fotolia.com
- Glen Elder Lake, Photo: Courtesy of patita88 - Fotolia.com
- Kansas Lakes: Hillsdale Lake, Photo: Courtesy of winyu - Fotolia.com
- Horsethief Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Michael - Fotolia.com
- Kanopolis Lake, Photo: Courtesy of CoolimagesCo - Fotolia.com
- Kansas Lakes: Kaw Lake, Photo: Courtesy of alohapatty - Fotolia.com
- Lyon State Fishing Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Vadim - Fotolia.com
- Melvern Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Elenathewise - Fotolia.com
- Kansas Lakes: Milford Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Tonya - Fotolia.com
- Perry Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Colby - Fotolia.com
- Scott State Fishing Lake, Photo: Courtesy of art_rich - Fotolia.com
- Tuttle Creek Lake, Photo: Courtesy of DmyTo - Fotolia.com
- Kansas Lakes: Wilson Lake, Photo: Courtesy of Forenius - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of batman6794 - Fotolia.com
More Places to Visit in Kansas:
From alluring small-town destinations to lively attractions of big cities, there’s no place like Kansas for a spectacularly memorable vacation. Kansas has every kind of attraction that any traveler could ever look for with a culture that weaves the peace and relaxation of towns with the hustle and bustle of the city together seamlessly. No matter where in Kansas your travels take you, you’ll find exciting activities for all ages and interests like horseback rides through a national park, a hot air balloon ride across the skies or a gastronomic trip down foodie lane. Take your pick from outdoor adventures, head indoors for historic trips, or maybe even follow the Yellow Brick Road to Dorothy’s house and find yourself in the magical Land of Oz.
Pillsbury Crossing Wildlife Area
Declared one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas, the Pillsbury Crossing Wildlife Area is one of the top draws of the Little Apple in Kansas. It is best known for its outstanding geography, which has a stone creek bottom that forms a natural ford. The top draw of the Pillsbury Crossing Wildlife Area, however, is the long and broad waterfall in the park that has served as a landmark of the park for generations. Standing just 5-feet tall and 60-feet long, the waterfall provides a serene respite from the busy nature of the city. When the stream of the water is normal, visitors can take a canoe, kayak or other small boats up the stream for nearly half a mile. The area also offers great birdwatching and cat fishing, while a short hiking trail can be explored as well.
7960 State Lake Road, Manhattan, Kansas 66502; Phone: 785-539-9999
Kanopolis State Park
As the first state park in Kansas, Kanopolis State Park is largely regarded as the park to have started it all. The park has drawn many visitors to Marquette’s Ellsworth County since it was first established in 1955, all of whom were eager to explore the best of the region of the Smoky Hills. From rolling hills, pleasant woods and bluffs to beaches and full-service marinas, the Kanopolis State Park has a lot to offer to its visitors. Travelers can enjoy a horseback ride along the hills, mountain bike or hike along a 1.5 miles of trails or camp at one of the 14 areas in Langley Point and Horsethief. The most popular route in the park is called the Buffalo Track Nature Trail, where visitors can study area’s native plans and wildlife alongside the rich history of Native Americans in Kansas.
200 Horsethief Road, Marquette, Kansas 67464; Phone: 785-46-2565
Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
Education, recreation and culture come together at the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. The park was founded to keep pressing ecological and environmental issues at the forefront of the city’s agenda. With an arboretum spanning across 300-acres and 45-acres of botanical gardens, the Overland Park achieves its goal with ease. Top places to visit in the arboretum include the Train Garden and the award-winning Monet Garden, while a trail also laces through the grounds to give visitors a chance to explore Wolf Creek and the 800 plant species that call the prairie and grounds home. Art lovers can also see 39 different sculptures throughout Overland Park like the Chinese Cultural Exchange collection and several other temporary exhibits.
8909 West 129 Street, Overland Park, Kansas 66013; Phone: 913-685-3604
Whether you’re looking for adrenaline pumping activities, relaxing excursions through greenspaces or cultural trips around the city, Overland Park has it all and more. Got a taste for high-flying activities? Head to iFLY and discover your wings at the ever popular indoor skydiving center in the city. Overland Park is just as popular for its museums and cultural attractions like the Museum at Prairiefire, the American Jazz Museum and the American Royal Museum and Visitors Center. Spending time outdoors is just as enjoyable in Overland Park with tree top adventures, rope swings, zip lines and more at Go Ape! There’s also a 300-acre arboretum to be explored for a relaxing and rejuvenating walk. As the second most populous city in Kansas, the locals, and getting to know them, is just as enjoyable as the city’s most popular attractions.
Urban savvy meets quirky fun at the lively and vibrant city of Lawrence. Lawrence is so well known for its charm and hospitality, in fact, that it’s been nominated two times in a row for Midwest Living’s Greatest Midwest Town award. Take in all that Lawrence’s nature has to offer at attractions like the Prairie Park Nature Center and Baker Wetlands Discovery Center or simply enjoy the peace and quiet at Clinton Lake. For those who want their vacation to be a treat for both the mind and body, museums and enlightening spaces like the DeBruce Center or the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area add a great educational element to any itinerary. Better yet, don’t plan an itinerary. Stroll through Lawrence and discover its gems along the way. After all, sometimes, spontaneity is the best policy at some vacations.
Have you heard the saying, “Get the heck out of dodge!”? Well, it’s time to forget it because when it comes to Dodge City, Kansas, the only direction you should be heading is in. The Queen of Cowtowns, Dodge City offers visitors the opportunity to travel back in time to the Old West through original and unique attractions. Known as the cowboy capital of the Midwest, the best way to start a visit to Dodge City is by heading to the Visitor Information Center. From there, visitors can start a tour of the historic sites of the city such as the Historic Trolley Tours. Notable museums to visit include the Boot Hill Museum and the Kansas Heritage Center. On the other hand, high octane activities can be enjoyed at popular destinations like the Dodge City Raceway Park or the Long Branch Lagoon Water Park.
There isn’t any other city quite like Kansas City. One of the top destinations in the Midwest, a lot has happened in Kansas City, and its historic sites alone are enough to fill a full weekend’s itinerary or more. History buffs can visit the Korean-Vietnam War Memorial, the country’s first dual-war memorial, or step along every camping spot that Lewis and Clark stopped at in Kaw Point Park. Racing fanatics, on the other hand, can experience heart thumping action at the Kansas Speedway. Don’t forget to pop into one of Kansas City’s many barbecue joints. Passionate about smoked meat, you haven’t really tried barbecue until you’ve had Kansas City’s award-winning smoked meat.
Known affectionately as the Little Apple, Manhattan, Kansas, is home to big flavors, big attractions and even bigger adventures. Despite being a relatively small town, Manhattan has a big 150-year history, which ought to be reason enough to visit Manhattan. The Riley County Historical Museum is home to enlightening and interactive exhibits while Goodnow House, the former home of Isaac Goodnow is an interesting state historic site to explore. Educational attractions, on the other hand, are perfect for families traveling to Manhattan. Some must-see sites include the Flint Hills Discovery Center and the Sunset Zoo, while outdoor activities are best enjoyed at beautiful locations like the Konza Prairie, K-State Gardens and the Tuttle Creek Lake. Make sure to visit the many geographic wonders of Manhattan in the alluring Flint Hills.
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There’s more to Olathe than meets the eye. Ranked as one of the best 100 cities to live in America and home to some of the highest ranked educational institutions in Kansas, Olathe draws both tourists and curious individuals interested in calling Olathe their new home. Despite being a relatively small city, Olathe is home to a handful of unique museums and attractions that make a for the perfect relaxing weekend destination. Travel back in time to the days of the old settlers and at the Johnson County Old Settlers or visit the only Santa Fe Trail stagecoach stop that receives visitors at the Mahaffie Stagecoach stop and Farm Historic Site. Recreational stops to visit include the 4-acre Olathe Veterans Memorial Park, the 17-mile long Indian Creek Hike and Bike Trail as well as the impressive Cedar Creek Falls.
Travelers looking for tons of extreme activities all in one place should look no further than Hutchinson, Kansas. Excitement knows no boundaries in Hutch with attractions like Cosmophere, where visitors can explore the largest combined collection of space artifacts from Russia and the United States in the world. If you’re more interested in heading underground than to outer space, a trip to Strataca will take you 650 feet underground into one of America’s active salt mines. Meanwhile, the past and present come together at the Yoder Amish Community, which is home to 100 Amish families who welcome visitors to explore their communities. If you’re more interested in exploring the nature and wildlife of Hutchinson, stop by the Dillon Nature Center, the Hutchinson Zoo or the Hedrick Exotic Animal Farm for an outstanding experience.
Stunning from afar and absolutely awe-inspiring up close, the Monument Rock are located in the western region of the state and are part of the Kansas’ Eight Wonders. Designated as a National Natural Landmark, the monuments, which are also referred to as the Chalk Pyramids, are 70-feet tall formations composed of Niobrara Chalk. The monuments are estimated to be about 80 million years old and are thought to have been formed when most of the area were part of a great inland body of water. When seen from a relatively close proximity, the formations resemble certain things which have earned each of them their names. Some of the formations to see include Charlie the Dog, Eye of the Needle, and Little Pyramids. Other things to see at Monument Rocks are layers of shells and fossils that are hundreds of thousands years old.
Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area
Open 365 days a year and free to the public, the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area is located in the Kansas Wetlands Education Center. It consists of 41,000 acres of wetlands, making it the largest of its kind in the country, and is best known for spectacular birdwatching it offers to all visitors. Each season brings unique birds to the wetlands, making it a great destination all year round. The winter season brings a larger bird population including eagles, while spring sees the wetlands filled with nearly half a million geese and ducks. Sandhill and Whooping Cranes also call the wetlands home in the spring, whereas summer brings thousands of shorebirds to the area. In the fall, those who visit Cheyenne Bottoms can see white tailed deer up close along with some waterfowl.
592 NE K-156 Highway, Great bend, Kansas 67530; Phone: 877-243-9268
Sitting on the banks of the Arkansas River in the south-central region of Kansas, Wichita is the largest city in the state and the 48th-largest city in country. Unsurprisingly, the city gets over six million visitors a year, all of whom are incredibly eager to experience all of the entertainment, attractions, food and museums that Wichita has to offer. Entertainment is found in many variations at Wichita with tons of music venues, theatres and live comedies, such as the historic Orpheum Theatre, running shows every week. When it comes to the great outdoors, Wichita has tons of parks, trails, water parks and wildlife attractions to enjoy. At the top of the list is the Sedgwick County Zoo and the Tanganyika Wildlife Park. With so much to do in Kansas’ largest city, a trip to this part of Kansas alone is enough to fill a whole week with excitement and adventure.
Sedgwick County Park
A massive park with tons of beauty of behold, the Sedgwick County Park offers families, friends and solo travelers alike with fun activities to enjoy. The park is situated in the northwest portion of Wichita and is home to four lakes, over four miles of paved pathways, and wooded areas that play host to hundreds of birds and other wildlife. Fishing enthusiasts can try their hand at old rod and reel fishing from a bridge or a dock. Meanwhile, kids can get up close with nature while feeding the ducks and geese that roam through the park. Sports enthusiasts can also rent use of basketball courts, horseshoe pits, tennis courts, volleyball courts and more. Make it a treat for the family and extended relatives alike by spending a full day at the park by the barbecue grills and enjoy a feast while the kids enjoy all the park has to offer.
6501 W. 21st Street North Wichita, Kansas 67212; Phone: 316-794-2774
Arkansas River Trail
As the longest and most visited multi-use trail in Wichita, the Arkansas River Trail is the best place to visit for quality recreational fun for the whole family. The trail features 10-miles laced throughout the city, with the main portion of the trail situated along the southwest bank of the Big Arkansas River. Following the trails also provide visitors with convenient access points to several attractions in the city including several museums, an ice rink, zoo and stadium. Runners or bikers navigating the Arkansas River Trail can explore the nearby Sims Park by way of a pedestrian bridge or stop by attractions like the Exploration Place, Cowtown Museum and Watson Park.
21st Street North and Galena Street, Wichita, Kansas
Drinkwater and Schriver Flour Mill
Built sometime in 1875, the Drinkwater and Shriver Flour Mill, better known as the Cedar Point Mill, is a cultural and historical attraction in the heart of Cedar Point. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the mill ran for approximately 100 years along the banks of Cottonwood River to produce flour for local and nearby bakeries. Although the mill is currently under much needed renovation, the Cedar Point Mill is still spectacular to visit. The building can be admired from the adjacent side of the Cottonwood River dam while the granary is best examined from the front of the property. The surrounding area also makes for a pleasant walk with the woods providing a quiet respite from every day life.
1st Street corner Main Street, Chase County, Cedar Point, Kansas; Phone: 816-808-1610
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Lake Scott State Park
A breathtaking oasis of natural beauty, the Lake Scott State Park is regarded as one of the top 50 state parks to see in the country. All 1,020 acres of the park are adorned with stunning features such as craggy bluffs, natural springs, and deep wooded canyons. In the center of the park, the 100-acre Scott State Fishing Lake offers great fishing and swimming opportunities along with other watersports. Additionally, a 160-acre wildlife area sits just west of the park for wildlife observation and hiking. History buffs and archaeology enthusiasts will love a trip to the park to see over 26 archaeological sites. Sites like the El Cuartelejo, a National Historic Landmark, are found in the park along with sites like the Steele home and Battle Canyon.
101 West Scott Lake Drive, Scott City, Kansas 67861; Phone: 620-872-2061
Cheney State Park
Sitting on the southern end of the Cheney Reservoir is the 1,900-acre Cheney State Park. Founded in 1964, the park is just 20 miles to the west of Wichita and has grown to be one of the most popular utility camping sites in the state. There are over 200 utility camping sites in the park with several other camping amenities available such as seven modern cabins that can be reserved ahead of time. Avid sailors can also stop by the Ninnescah Sailing Center to cruise through the waters of one of the country’s top sailing lakes or go for an open water fishing trip. Avid hikers or trekkers can set off on the Giefer Creek or Spring Creek trail to venture through the natural beauty of the park or simply enjoy observing the wildlife as they explore the area.
16000 NE 50th Street, Cheney, Kansas 67025; Phone: 316-542-3664
Wilson State Park
A magical addition to any itinerary, the Wilson State Park is one a gem amongst Kansas’ state parks. There are two parts to the park: Hell Creek and Otoe. As a whole, the park features 5 areas which feature both modern and primitive camping sites. Cabins in the area are equipped with plumbing and electricity, making perfect for campers who don’t necessarily want to let go of some luxuries. While the 4-mile mountain biking loop is a local and visitor favorite, the main draw of the Wilson State Park is the majestic 9,000 acre Wilson Lake, the clearest lake in Kansas. Aside from boating, fishing and hunting opportunities, the Wilson Lake is also great for hiking, biking, camping and hunting. Don’t forget the smallmouth bass and striped bass fishing that draw fishing enthusiasts from all over the nation to its shores.
3 State Park Road, Sylvan Grove, Kansas 67481; Phone: 785-658-2465
Find the top attractions in Kansas at the Top City of Topeka. The city offers exciting attractions like the Topeka Zoo and Conservation Center, the number one family attraction in the region, and events throughout the year like the Top City Treasure Hunt. Even visitors looking for a quiet weekend in the city will find something to do whether it’s appreciating history at several historic sites or perusing the art at any of Topeka’s top museums. Families traveling to Topeka can enjoy a wealth of family activities at every corner like the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center and the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Museum. Visitors looking for the best that Topeka’s great outdoors has to offer can bust out their walking shoes or bring along their mountain bikes for explorations of trails like the Lake Shawnee and Shunga Trails.
339 Veterans Parkway, Wichita, Kansas 67203
Geary County State Park
Ready to see one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Kansas up close? Head to the Geary County State Park in the spring or after a particularly rainy day to get a look at the incredibly Geary Lake Falls. The trek to the falls are a treat in and of itself with the trek starting at the northeast end of the Geary County State Fishing Lake. In addition to the water falls, there’s a lot of sports and leisure fishing activities to enjoy at the park and gorgeous vistas all around for your eyes to behold. For those who are visiting the park when the water fall is dry, don’t be discouraged. The rock formations are breathtaking as well and make a spectacular backdrop for photos of you and your travel companions.
U.S. Highway 77, Junction City, Kansas 66441; Phone: 785-238-3014
Magical and memorable, the Flint Hills is a mesmerizing place to visit amongst the gorgeous rolling backdrop of Kansas’ grasslands. Extending from Marshall County all the way to Cowley County, the hills are most beautiful in the spring when their gentle slopes are dotted with lovely white wildflowers. For all other seasons, the Flint Hills provide the perfect spot for some honest to goodness outdoor fun like mountain biking, trail biking, hiking, camping and more. Indeed, the choices are quite varied with peaceful and relaxing excursions to adrenaline pumping fun. There are even cultural attractions waiting to be explored at the Flint Hills with various museums and sculptures situated throughout the area.
Shawnee Mission Park
When in Shawnee, Kansas, there’s no place to enjoy the great outdoors better than at the Shawnee Mission Park. The multi-use park spans over 1,600 beautiful acres of land, making it the largest park in the county. Unsurprisingly, it’s also the most visited park in Kansas as visitors are always eager to make use of the great amenities. Perhaps the biggest draw in the park is the lake, which is perfect for sail boarding, fishing, boating and many other water sports. Eleven shelters situated strategically around the park are also great locations for a family picnic, with nature trails, play areas and even a disc golf course nearby for public consumption. Don’t forget to stop by the Theatre in the Park, the Shawnee Mission Park Marina and the Shawnee Mission Park Beach for a complete experience.
7900 Renner Road, Shawnee, Kansas 66219; Phone: 913-888-4713
If there’s one thing that Salina takes very seriously, it’s making sure that each and every visitor to their humble town has an outstanding time. Welcoming and lively, Salina’s reputation as a thriving arts community precedes itself through breathtaking concerts, theatre performances, festivals, galleries and public art. Essentially, Salina is perfect for the cultural traveler who can’t get enough of art and the way it brings communities together. Art isn’t the only draw to Salina’s hospitable town either as nature lovers can spend hours wandering through 700 acres of parks. Biking, swimming, hiking, fishing, golf, it’s all there just waiting to be enjoyed in the fabulous green spaces of Salina. Families traveling with kids can also visit top attractions like the newest zoo and wildlife museum of Kansas.
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