Kanopolis Lake is a reservoir in Ellsworth County, in the Smoky Hills of the state of Kansas. It is one of the oldest man-made lakes, built between 1940 and 1948, bordered by the first state-owned park in Kansas, Kanopolis State Park.
The 40 meter tall earthen dam was built on the Smoky Hill River, as a flood control and water conservation project by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Kanopolis lake was built thanks to the Flood Control Act of 1938, mainly to maintain the minimum flow of the river. The dam doesn’t provide any hydroelectric power. Normally the reservoir has 12 kilometers of shoreline, which triples to 41 meters during flood stage.
Kanopolis State Park was completed in 1948, with 89 km2 of bluffs, woods, and rolling hills. The 12 km2 artificial lake was carved out of the nearby Dakota Sandstone Bluffs, thus having numerous caves on its precinct open for exploring, mostly around Horsethief Canyon.
The Kanopolis Lake area houses four main spots equipped with recreational facilities. In the eastern part one can find Kanopolis State Park and Venango Public Use Area, whilst in the west tourists can unwind either at Yankee Run Point Public Use Area or at Boldt Bluff Public Use Area.
More than 300 campsites are at service to outdoor adventurists, along with plenty of deluxe cabins waiting for comfort-seeking visitors. The parks have well-maintained swimming beaches, designated picnic areas, three public boat launches, a large service marina, and a separate area for fishing only.
A fee is required for vehicle parking, use of campsites and utilities, which can be paid for at the state park office, camp hosts or gate houses.
Fishing is one of the most popular activities. The artificial lake’s waters are rich in white bass, walleye, saugeye, channel catfish, wipers and crappie. Wildlife-viewing is also widespread, since many animals like whitetail deer, coyotes, beavers, muskrats, and rabbits oftentimes show themselves to the public. Hunting is only allowed in season, with an official permit.
During the spring and autumn months hundreds of migrating waterfowl can be seen around the lake, such as geese, pintails, shovelers, teal and mallards. In the winter bald eagles and osprey fish in the river, offering quite a spectacular sight.
Watersports like boating, jet skiing, waterskiing and canoeing are also favored activities. Hiking is also popular, the State Park offering numerous trails around the reservoir. The Buffalo Track Canyon Nature Trail is famous for its abundance of prairie wildflowers (with a total of 423 species of plants), such as purple poppy mallow, prairie spiderwort, yucca, prairie wild rose and butterfly milkweed.
Kanopolis State Park towers along the Dakota sandstone bluffs, to the caves and crevices of Horsethief Canyon, known for its rugged beauty and striking landscape. The State Park also managed the Mushroom Rock State Park, a preferred picnic area with unusual, beautiful geologic formations, visited by a large number of tourists every year.