Horsethief Reservoir, Kansas

Completed in 2010, Horsethief Reservoir is the newest man-made lake in the state of Kansas. It was named after the nearby Horsethief Canyon and was primarily constructed to manage the frequent flooding in the area and to provide a prime recreational spot for locals.

Horsethief Reservoir Stats

Lake NameHorsethief Reservoir
CountryUnited States
Surface area2.000
Lake typeReservoir

History of the Dam

Although the construction of the dam and the lake was initially planned in the 1930s, it was only approved and completed in late 2009, and filled in a year. The 2133 meter earthen dam is located in an arid area, across Buckner Creek, 32 kilometers North of Dodge City.

The construction is the result of the joint efforts of local businesses and farmers within the Pawnee watershed district, who persuaded local government forces to build the dam. The district’s four counties have voted and agreed on imposing a 1.5% tax on purchases, money which would be spent on developing the lake area.

Naturally, this action caused a lot of controversy; some affirming that the small creek wouldn’t have enough waters or that the dam would disturb the infrequent water flows downstream. Many experts were surprised of the lake’s rapid fill thanks to the abundance in rainfall that year, since they supposed it would take the reservoir nearly four years to reach its required level.

Because of the regular water release which flows back into Buckner Creek, wildlife habitats downstream can improve. Many believe that this will be the last large dam in the state because of the restrictive permitting process valid today.

Travel and Leisure Activities

The reservoir’s shores are filled with parks, campsites and numerous outdoor activity centers. Camping is a preferred activity, Horsethief having 42 electrified campsites with water and plenty of primitive camping sites. The local park office is equipped with a small camp store, with various fishing and hunting licenses, as well as camping and boating permits on sale. There is also a rustic cabin for guests demanding a more comfortable stay.

Besides the numerous picnic grounds, gazebos, basketball courts, volleyball fields and playgrounds, a twelve-target archery is also located on the shores of the reservoir. Hunting is allowed in designated areas, but only with a valid permit. Deer, turkey, pheasant, geese, beaver and ducks are among the most popular animals in the park.

Fishing is a very popular activity, with opportunities to catch catfish, crappies, bluegills, largemouth basses and walleyes. All types of water sports are permitted at Horsethief Reservoir; the most popular are waterskiing, kite boarding, waterskiing, kayaking and tubing. There are also several boat launching facilities, which can be used for a small fee. Annual and daily passes can be purchased at the park office.

Although there are no formal trails in the park yet, hiking is also preferred pastime for outdoor enthusiasts, since the whole park is open for trekking. Swimming, bird-watching and wildlife-viewing are also popular.

Jetmore is a small city 12 kilometers East of the lake that faced an increase in tourism thanks to the newly-built reservoir. It has a museum that offers its visitors a glimpse into the pioneer life of the 1860s, in an old limestone home. Dodge City is a larger urban center nearby, with a large number of annual events and plenty of historic sights to offer to tourists. It has a brand new casino, two museums (Boot Hill Museum and the Gunfighters Wax Museum), and hosts numerous activities such as a rodeo, indoor crafts show, golf tournaments and theater shows.

Horsethief Reservoir Map