This week let’s go and visit one of the nicest state parks in the north-central United States. This state park will pop any ideas you may have in your mind that Kansas is flat and boring. The first state park in Kansas, Kanopolis State Park is in the scenic Smoky Hills region of the state of Kansas. This Park is split into two areas north and south of the dam. Kanopolis offers more than 30 miles of trails open to hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders, 15 of which are on the Smoky Hill Wildlife Area. This State Park was completed in 1948. The 3,500-acre lake and 12,500-acre wildlife area provide anglers and hunters abundant fish and game. Nestled near the Smoky Hill River toward the northwest portion of the wildlife area is Faris Caves, which were carved by early pioneers and served as milk house, schoolhouse, and living quarters. Wildlife viewing and photography opportunities are plentiful. In the winter, bald eagles and ospreys fish the river. Songbirds and wildflowers brighten the landscape throughout the area.
This part of Kansas which is called the Smoky Hill River valley, not counting the addition of the flood control reservoir, has changed little since the days when it was roamed by people like Kit Carson, Gen. George Custer, Buffalo Bill Cody, and the Cheyenne. This area is rich in Kansas history, as long before the lake was developed the Smoky Hill River Valley served as a very important area for those people who lived there. Early Native American tribes of Pawnee, Cheyenne, Apache, and Kiowa followed the game trails for centuries and camped within the deep sandstone canyons in and along the Smoky Hill River Valley. The first white man in this area happened around 1541 by the Spanish as they searched for gold. The French were next as they explored the area west of the Mississippi from the 1700s to the early 1800s, introducing fur trapping to the tribes and blocking Spanish influence. The California gold rush and the Homestead act increased westward expansion of Europeans through this River Valley during the mid-1800s. The Smoky Hill River Valley area was home to some of the largest cattle ranches in Kansas in the late 1800s. After a huge flood in 1938 on the Smoky Hill River, lawmakers authorized the construction of the Kannapolis dam in 1940, and the first man-made lake appeared in the state of Kansas.
There are a great many things that one can do in the state park for those who enjoy being outdoors. You can go swimming at the beach, or fishing at the lake and of course, there is boating. There are playgrounds for the kids to play in, lots of trails to go hiking and mountain biking on and an equestrian campground for those of you who are horse enthusiasts. There are three caves to look at and explore, and cabins to rent for those who may not like sleeping under the stars. Thousands of acres of the park are also open for all kinds of game hunting. You should ask about stagecoach rides and guided trail rides for a new perspective on this state park.
Kannapolis State Park is located to the southwest of Salina Kansas. Follow KS-140 Southwest until you get to KS-141 and turn left going south. Follow KS-141 South and turn right on Horsethief Road and follow the signs into the park.
More than 200 primitive campsites and 133 sites with utilities are located through the 14 campgrounds in the Langley Point and Horsethief areas. There are restrooms and showers, playgrounds and a basketball court. Kanopolis State Park is offering six deluxe cabins as a year-round alternative camping opportunity. Each cabin is heated/air-conditioned, sleeps five to six people with one full-size bed, a full-size futon, a pull-down–“Murphy-type” twin-size bed and a couch. The cabin also comes with a full kitchen with refrigerator, stove, microwave, dishes, pots, and pans. Beds are fitted with mattresses only; you will need to bring your own bedding. There is no television, and no internet or telephone hookups.
Based on https://freecampsites.net/#!Kanopolis,+KS,+USA there are 10 free campsites with 41 miles of Kanopolis State Park.
—-Hiking & Biking & Horseback Riding—-
The Buffalo Track Nature Trail is a good 1.5-mile route that has native plants and wildlife, as well as a lot of Native American history to show. Kanopolis offers 25 miles of trails, all of which start in the state park. The Rockin’ K trails take visitors to and from the Rockin’ K campgrounds. The Horsethief trails loop through canyons and trees. Farther north and west, the Prairie Trails traverse high prairie and Red Rock Canyon. The Alum Creek trails take visitors across the huge prairie and through many water crossings. Be aware that it can take more than a day to complete some trails on foot.
—-Things to do—-
The Army Corps of Engineers manages three parks at Kanopolis Lake: Venango Park, Outlet Park, and Riverside Park. The Corps also operates the Boldt Bluff and Yankee Run access areas, located on the reservoir’s western shore, for fishing and primitive camping. There are three public boat launches available, and one whole section of the lake is set aside for fishing only. Fish species include White Bass, Walleye, Saugeye, Channel Catfish, Wipers, and Crappie, attracting thousands of fishermen each year.