Kansas State Parks Road Trip

Posted on September 30, 2016 by Mickey

With tomorrow being Healthy Trails Adventure Day, which allows free entry to any of the Kansas state parks, I thought it would be fitting to create a Kansas State Parks road trip!

Direct link to the map

Kanopolis State Park

Kanopolis Falls
Kanopolis FallsPrints Available
The beautiful spillway waterfall at Kanopolis State Park

Our first stop is Kanopolis State Park, just northwest of Marquette, Kansas. Kanopolis is a wonderful place to spend the sunrise. Take a hike on the Horsethief Canyon trail, visit the spillway waterfall and make sure to check out the actual lake!

Mushroom Rock State Park

Mushroom Rock Milky Way
Mushroom Rock Milky WayPrints Available
The Milky Way shines bright above Mushroom Rock State Park

Mushroom Rock State Park is just north of Kanopolis State Park by a few miles. It’s down a small dirt road. While the main rock that the park is named after is accessed via a quick 2-3 minute walk down the trail to the south of the road, make sure to check out some of the other rock formations in the area!

Wilson State Park

Wilson Lake Cliffs
Wilson Lake CliffsPrints Available
Cliffs above Wilson Lake

Wilson State Park is one of my favorites in all of Kansas! Wilson Lake is known for it’s amazing clear, blue waters! In fact, it’s known to be the clearest lake in Kansas! A plethora of activities await here, from boating and kayaking, to mountain biking and hiking. The cliffs that jut inward along the rim of the lake make for great kayaking, while the trail above these same cliffs belongs to the Switchgrass Mountain Bike Trail.

Cedar Bluff State Park

To the west of Wilson State Park lies Cedar Bluff State Park. Cedar Bluff State Park is the main attraction of the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway. The most interesting feature about the reservoir is the giant 100 foot bluffs that line parts of the south side of the lake.

Lake Scott State Park

Battle Canyon Monument Milky Way
Battle Canyon Monument Milky WayPrints Available
The Milky Way, a meteor and a thunderstorm light the sky above the Battle Canyon monument

Our final stop is Lake Scott State Park, along the Western Vistas Historic Byway. You’ll want to leave a lot of time to work with at Lake Scott, as there’s plenty to do! Lake Scott is located inside of a canyon. Surrounding the lake are the walls of the canyon, with spring waters from springs like the Big Spring feeding into the lake. While the beauty of the lake is stunning, it’s history is equally amazing! Within the park’s boundaries is the only known pueblo in Kansas, El Quartelejo. It was built by Native American’s who entered the region after fleeing Spanish rule in New Mexico in the 1600’s. To the south of Lake Scott is the beautiful Battle Canyon. At first glance, Battle Canyon appears to be a scenic canyon that cuts through the prairie. Digging deeper into the history of the region presents even more though. Battle Canyon was the site of the last Native American battle in Kansas. Today, a monument stands at the spot where many of the Northern Cheyenne women and children hid during the battle. When visited Lake Scott, make sure to visit all of these areas, as they are truly remarkable! If you have a little time, the hiking trails make a great way to finish off the day. Feel free to stay and camp as well. Lake Scott has some wonderful camping grounds to spend the night at!

Optional side trips: Many of the best side trips are located near Lake Scott. The absolute must are the giant 70 foot tall chalk pyramids called Monument Rocks! In addition, just to the north of the lake lies the Little Pyramids and the badlands of Little Jerusalem. Castle Rock can also be found between Cedar Bluff State Park and Lake Scott State Park.

Posted under: Kansas

South Central Kansas Waterfall Road Trip

Posted on September 9, 2016 by Mickey

With all of the recent rain, I thought a nice South Central Kansas waterfall road trip would be just the trick for a great weekend adventure! I’ve picked some of my favorite waterfalls as part of a circular trip that starts and ends in Wichita. Check them out below!

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The Keeper of the Plains Falls

Wichita, Kansas

Keeper of the Plains Fiery Sunset
Keeper of the Plains Fiery SunsetPrints Available
A fiery sunset explodes behind the Keeper of the Plains and it’s waterfall

While the main attraction in downtown Wichita is undoubtedly the iconic Keeper of the Plains, the waterfall that sits below it as the Little Arkansas River meets the Arkansas River is impressive in it’s own right! I’ve made this the first stop, as the Keeper of the Plains is a wonderful place to enjoy the sunrise.

Bonus: Just upstream from the Keeper of the Plains from lies another waterfall that dams up the Little Arkansas River before it reaches the statue.

Optional: A few miles downstream from the Keeper of the Plains is the relatively new Lincoln Street Bridge falls. They are quite impressive, as you can see below.

Lincoln Street Bridge Falls
Lincoln Street Bridge FallsPrints Available
The waterfall at Lincoln Street Bridge in Wichita

Optional #2: Slate Creek Dam Falls is located in Wellington. It’s one of the more beautiful man-made waterfalls in all of Kansas! If you have a few extra minutes on your waterfall road trip, it’s a worthy stop!

Slate Creek Dam Falls
Slate Creek Dam FallsPrints Available
The waterfall at Slate Creek Dam in Wellington

Drury Dam Falls

Near Caldwell, Kansas

Flooded Drury Dam Falls
Flooded Drury Dam FallsPrints Available
Flood waters spill over the waterfall at Drury Dam

After getting your fill of the Keeper of the Plains (and possible side excursions), head south to Caldwell and the Drury Dam Falls. Drury has a pretty amazing history as a tourism locations. The spot I shot this photo at was once a large hotel where people all over Kansas and Oklahoma would visit. A massive flood in the 1900s swept the hotel away. By the 1950s, a fire destroyed the mill across the bank. All that remains is the ruins of the mill and the waterfall you see here.

Cowley Falls

Cowley State Fishing Lake, Kansas

Cowley Falls
Cowley FallsPrints Available
Cowley Falls in the spillway of Cowley State Fishing Lake

Cowley Falls are some of the biggest and most famous of waterfalls in Kansas. Dropping 25-30 feet in the spillway of Cowley State Fishing Lake makes for a sight to behold when rains run heavy. The sight you see above is what happens in the spring after heavy rainfall! Even in other seasons, a good rain can get the falls flowing a bit. Once you’ve had your fill of Cowley Falls, it’s time to head east towards the Chautauqua Hills and more awesome waterfalls!

Optional: Osro Falls is just a little further to east of Cowley Falls and somewhat on the way to our next stop. Located along the Caney River, Osro Falls can be a bit difficult to get to after lots of rain. You have to trek it across a farmer’s field on an unimproved road to get to the low water crossing waterfall.

Osro Falls
Osro FallsPrints Available
Osro Falls along the Caney River

Butcher Falls

Near Sedan, Kansas

Spring at Butcher Falls
Spring at Butcher FallsPrints Available
Spring rains spill over Butcher Falls

Arriving east into the Chautauqua Hills, we come upon the Red Buffalo Ranch, near Sedan, Kansas. One of the highlights of the ranch is Butcher Falls, which is a large punchbowl waterfall. Various cascades begin the drop to the main waterfall before plunging 20 feet into the pool below. It makes for a great swimming spot and is almost always flowing year-round!

Optional (but absolutely worth it!): One of my favorite waterfalls in Kansas is Chautauqua Falls. Located at the Old Sedan Lake’s spillway, Chautauqua Falls makes a drop of at least two levels. Both drops are impressive in their own right. The first drops 10-20 feet depending on which side of the falls you’re viewing from (there are multiple parts of the waterfall here, splitting off before coming back together). The second is a much shorter five or so feet, but very beautiful.

Surging Chautauqua Falls
Surging Chautauqua FallsPrints Available
Chautauqua Falls flows with spring rainfall
Lower Chautauqua Falls
Lower Chautauqua FallsPrints Available
Lower Chautauqua Falls drops from it’s ledge into the pool below

Elk Falls

Elk Falls, Kansas

Elk Falls
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Spring starts to show it’s colors at Elk Falls in southeast Kansas.

After visiting Butcher Falls (and Chautauqua Falls if you took the optional side trip), your next stop should be Elk Falls, in the town of the same name. Elk Falls is a popular swimming and fishing hole. The drop of 5-10 feet into a large pool makes a great summer swimming spot. Lots of fisherman also make use of the area. It’s a great stop as you make your way back north and west towards Wichita and our final waterfalls on this road trip.

Butler Falls

Near Latham, Kansas

Butler Falls
Butler FallsPrints Available
Butler Falls swollen with rain

On the southwest side of Butler State Fishing Lake is a spillway waterfall named Butler Falls. The main drops are showcased in the above picture. if you hike downstream, various cascades also make for interesting scenery. It can be rough terrain, especially in high waters, but totally worth it!

Santa Fe Lake Falls

Augusta, Kansas

Santa Fe Lake Falls
Santa Fe Lake FallsPrints Available
The waterfall in the spillway of Santa Fe Lake Falls

Our final stop is Santa Fe Lake Falls. Santa Fe Lake itself is a hidden gem in south central Kansas completely worth a stop in it’s own right. The lake has great swimming, hiking, camping, boating and fishing. But we’re here for the waterfall! I’ve been here in multiple seasons, and have never seen it dry (not that it can’t run dry). After a good rain, it can be absolutely ferocious! The drop is maybe 15 feet high, but quite wide. Park next to the dam on the east side of the lake to find it and walk along the dam. If water is flowing at all, you’ll hear it before you see it!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this south central Kansas waterfall road trip!

Posted under: Kansas

Lakes and Rocks Kansas Road Trip

Posted on September 1, 2016 by Mickey

Considering it’s the last holiday weekend of the summer, most people in Kansas usually head to the lake! Well, I’ve got a road trip that takes you to not just one lake, but four! Add in four Kansas byways, lots of awesome rock formations and even a nice waterfall, and you’ve got yourself a classic Kansas road trip!

Direct link to the map

Lindsborg and Coronado Heights

Stormy Coronado Heights Panorama
Stormy Coronado Heights PanoramaPrints Available
Storm clouds roll in above Coronado Heights

A great starting place for this awesome trip is in the Lindsborg area! A sunrise from Coronado Heights is a real treat, as you can see for miles from the top of the hill.

Kanopolis Lake State Park

Kanopolis Falls
Kanopolis FallsPrints Available
Waterfall in the spillway of Kanopolis Lake

Once you’ve drunk in your fill of scenic views from Coronado Heights (and explored the castle), jump on the Prairie Trail Scenic Byway and head west to Kanopolis State Park. With more than 30 miles of trails, Kanopolis State Park would be a great place to stop and take a hike! Make sure to visit Kanopolis Falls while there!

Mushroom Rock State Park

Mushroom Rock Milky Way
Mushroom Rock Milky WayPrints Available
The Milky Way rises above Mushroom Rock

Just a few miles north of Kanopolis Lake is another great Kansas state park! Mushroom Rock State Park offers really interesting geological rock formations, including the famed “Mushroom Rock” itself (pictured above). It’s a wonderful place to just explore the interesting geological formations.

Wilson Lake State Park

Wilson Lake Cliffs
Wilson Lake CliffsPrints Available
Cliffs along the edge of Wilson Lake at dusk

The best way to get from Mushroom Rock State Park is along two of our scenic byways of Kansas! You’re already on the Prairie Trail Scenic Byway, but when you head north for Wilson Lake State Park from I-70, you’ll get the chance to travel in post rock country along the Post Rock Scenic Byway. Post rock country is an interesting area of Kansas where many of the fenceposts were created out of the local stone in the late 1800s as crop farming took hold in the area. Watch for these fence posts as you drive up to Wilson Lake. Wilson Lake has the claim of being the clearest water in any lake in Kansas! And it really is quite clear for a Kansas lake! It even has a shade of turquoise in it’s colors that really shine in the right light!

There’s typically something for everyone at Wilson Lake! For mountain bikers, Wilson Lake offers the epic Switchgrass Mountain Bike Trail. And for hikers, the Rock Town trail is a perfect 3 mile round trip hike to more interesting rock formations along the shores of Wilson Lake.

Cedar Bluff State Park

From one scenic byway and lake to another scenic byway and lake, the next leg of this lake and rock Kansas road trip takes you from Wilson Lake to Cedar Bluff State Park along the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway. Watersports, fishing and camping are great past-times at Cedar Bluff, but the views from the south side of the lake are probably it’s best feature! Aptly named Cedar Bluff for a reason, the cliffs on the south side of the lake rise 100 feet into the air for an amazing view!

Castle Rock

From Cedar Bluff State Park, head west along the backroads to reach Castle Rock. This place is worth a little exploring! While Castle Rock itself is a cool landmark, the badlands to the south of it might be just as interesting. Lots of rock formations and interesting rock shapes make for a great hour or so of exploring before heading on to Monument Rocks.

Monument Rocks

Monument Rocks Sunset
Monument Rocks SunsetPrints Available
Sunset over Monument Rocks in western Kansas

It’s like this road trip keeps getting better and better! One of the crown jewels of Kansas landmarks is the famed Monument Rocks. Climbing to ask high as 70 feet tall, these massive chalk monoliths soar into the sky. Coming from the relatively flat prairie surrounding them, they are a remarkable sight from both distance and up close! One of the more interesting features is the archway through one of the formations. Spend some time here! It’s a beautiful area!

Lake Scott State Park

A great way to finish this classic Kansas road trip is by staying at Lake Scott State Park. From Monument Rocks, you’ll drive a small portion of the Western Vistas Historic Byway before turning west to Lake Scott. Surrounded by canyons, this spring-fed lake is a real beauty! Camping is top-notch, as is the fishing! There are a number of hiking trails worth checking out. And history buffs will love this area! Battle Canyon was the site of the last major Native American battle fought in Kansas. And along the lake shore itself lies Kansas’ only pueblo, El Cuartelejo, built in the late 1600’s.

Posted under: Kansas