Kanopolis Lake

View at the start of Buffalo Track Canyon Trail
Typical canyons and bluffs in the upper lake area.
- Photo by Jim Mason

The Smoky Hill River valley is the scenic setting for Kanopolis Lake.

The best hiking and wildlife viewing are in the Horsethief Canyon area at the north end of the lake.

Hundreds of migrating waterfowl can be seen in spring and fall. Look for geese, mergansers, pintails, wigeons, shovelers, teal, mallards, gadwalls, buffleheads, and goldeneyes. Watch for collared lizards, Texas horned lizards, six-lined racerunners, Great Plains skinks, and other reptiles.  In grassland areas mule deer, horned larks, meadowlarks, and kingbirds are common.  Beaver and raccoon live along the waterways.  Watch for turkeys and prairie dogs in the state park area.  In open woodlands and croplands watch for white-tailed deer, pheasants, bobwhite quail, and coyotes.  In winter, bald eagles are commonly seen flying over the lake, and turkey vultures can be seen in summer.

Exploring a cave in Buffalo Track Canyon
This cave is one of the must-sees in the canyon.
- Photo by Dana Gythiel

Prairie wildflowers such as purple poppy mallow, prairie spiderwort, yucca, prairie wild rose, butterfly milkweed, and blue false indigo, along with little bluestem and sideoats grama grasses are only a few of the 423 species of plants that can be found along the Buffalo Track Canyon Nature Trail.

The Cheyenne sandstone formation, up to 100 feet thick in places, makes the walls of the canyon.  It has been sculpted by wind and water over the ages into various caves, spires and rugged escarpments that invite rock scrambling!

Mushroom Rock State Park features unique sandstone formations in a setting of prairie and riparian woodlands.

To reach it, drive 6 miles north of the Venango junction and 2 miles west.

One of the unique "mushroom" rock formations
- Photo by Jim Mason

bulletUser fees, Restrooms, Water available, Picnic tables.

Camping icon 119 utility campsites and over 200 primitive campsites in the State Park. 
           6 cabins (make a reservation online).

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Trail icon Buffalo Track Canyon Nature Trail (0.75 mile one way); the Horsethief Canyon area trails total over 24 miles, with several shorter loops possible, passing through the bluffs, uplands and bottoms of the very scenic area north of the lake.

bulletPick up a Kanopolis Legacy Lake Driving Trail guide from the Corps office and tour 27 sites in the area, including Mushroom Rock State Park.

Click here to get county birding lists for Kansas. Click the icon to find a birding list for Ellsworth County.

Find nearby Geocaches! Click the icon to locate nearby Geocaches

Kanopolis Lake map

Directions: From I-135 in Salina, take K-140 about 21 miles west to K-141.  Travel approximately 9 miles south to the state park office in the Horsethief Canyon area north of the dam (red arrow on map).  To get to the Corps of Engineers Information Center, which features exhibits on the area's archaeology, history, and natural resources, drive to the south side of the dam, then take the east road.

Location in Kansas

For a Google Map of this site, click here.

Ownership: The entities responsible for management of Kanopolis are shown below.
Contact them if you have specific questions about use or management of the site.

US Army Corps of Engineers  (785) 546-2294; 18,000 acres
Click here to visit the US ACE Kanopolis Lake web page.

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism (785) 546-2565
Click here to visit the KDWPT web page for Kanopolis State Park.  You may download the KDWP brochures on Kanopolis State Park or Buffalo Track Canyon trail or email the Park Manager from the links at the top of that page.

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The Natural Kansas web site © 2011 by
the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism.

Re-publication of site content in any form other than for personal use requires written permission.  If you are a Kansas resident, please assist with this and other wildlife viewing and conservation programs by contributing to the Chickadee Checkoff on your state tax form.

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Questions or comments about Natural Kansas may be directed to Jim Mason