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El Dorado Lake, Kansas
El Dorado Lake Information and Facts
El Dorado Lake is a reservoir next to the city of El Dorado, on the Walnut River. It lies in the Flint Hills region in Kansas, as part of El Dorado State Park, one of the state’s most handicapped-accessible parks.
Construction of the Dam and Reservoir
Situated in Butler County, the 32 km2 lake and the surrounding 18 km2 of park and an additional 14 km2 of wildlife area serve not only as a flood control center, but also as an attractive recreational area. The dam was built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers and was completed by 1981. The dam and reservoir are located adjacent to the remarkable tall grass prairies and rolling mounds of the Flint Hills.
During the construction process, the Army Corps decided to embody two smaller lakes of the region, the Bluestem and the old El Dorado lakes, the latter being completely inundated by the new large lake carrying the same name. The dam of the former lake was breached, and its remnants can still be seen today on the Shady Creek arm of the new El Dorado Lake.
Management of the reservoir’s resources was handed over to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. The lake provides water supply to the surrounding communities, and has 156 kilometers of shoreline dedicated mainly to recreational activities.
Fishing and Wildlife
Fishing, hunting and bird- and wildlife-watching are the main activities pursued in the El Dorado Lake and State Park.
The main fish that can be found in El Dorado Lake are largemouth bass, walleye, channel catfish, black bullhead, white crappie, black bullhead and flathead catfish. One can also stumble upon rainbow trout in Walnut River, but a special permit is required for fishing there. Anglers can have success along the stones which border the lake’s shoreline. A small curiosity is present in the artificial lake’s waters, the Zebra mussel, which is too tiny to be seen with the unaided eye. They can mostly be found in boat bilges, minnow buckets and virtually anything that can hold a small amount of water.
Hunters can hunt for animals like quails, prairie chicken, turkeys and pheasants, but keep in mind that a proper permit is a necessity.
There are four main regions around the reservoir, known for as prime wildlife-observing areas. Bluestem is rich in Canada geese, warblers, bald eagles and tree swallows, whereas the Boulder Bluff’s rock quarry area can boast with collared lizards and large populations of waterfowl. The Shady Creek section is famous for meadowlarks, common nighthawks, deer and greater prairie chicken. The walnut river hosts large societies of vultures, minks, chickadees, cardinals, woodpeckers and hawks.
Besides these nature-related activities, water sports are also a preferred way to relax in and around El Dorado Reservoir. Boating, waterskiing and jet skiing are the most popular pastimes. There are also two swimming beaches on the precinct.
The lakeshore is home to many trails. The Ada Trail is a 4-kilometer walk through the Walnut River area. Teter Nature Trail is an even shorter option, offering stunning views over the scenic Butler County Historical Society Wilderness area, where tourists can easily spot raccoons, turkeys and wild deer. These hiking trails are home to many of Kansas’ 800 varieties of wildflowers, which are usually in bloom from May to June and from August to September. These include the upright coneflower, purple prairie clover, Missouri evening primrose and the rose verbena. The left side of the man-made lake offers a limestone lookout point with the best view of the reservoir.
A nearly 20-kilometers long equestrian trail awaits horse-riding enthusiasts, lining along the reservoir’s shoreline, called the Boulder Bluff Horse Trail. Mountain bike riders will be happy to discover the Double Black Diamond Mountain Bike Trail, more than 3 kilometers in length.
Tourist Facilities and Attractions
El Dorado State Park has 4 main campgrounds with over 1000 campsites, both primitive and equipped with utilities. There are also a number of cabins for rent on the premises. A full-service marina, a sailing club, picnic shelters, playgrounds and many boat ramps await visitors. Permits are needed for camping, vehicle parking and use of utilities, which can be purchased at either the state park office, the gate houses or at camp hosts.
The city of El Dorado is located merely 5 kilometers South-West of the Lake. It was founded in 1870 as a municipality, and has 12 parks offering a myriad of outdoor activities such as bike races, concerts, theater shows, picnics, as well as basketball, tennis and soccer contests. It is home to Coutts Memorial Museum of Art which houses works from renowned artists such as Renoir and Remington. The Kansas Oil Museum offers insight on the town’s and the oil industry’s history, with some antique equipment from the 1920-1950’s on display. Small children will particularly enjoy the Playhouse Doll Museum, with an exposition focusing on dolls.