If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a million times. Words like “mind-numbing terrain”. “It’s so boring”. “There’s nothing to see”. “Longest drive ever”. Any guesses what these words are describing? Well I’ll go ahead and give the answer: Western Kansas. I-70 in particular.
And I have to be very honest, I’ve uttered those words myself over the years. Shame on me.
We travel western Kansas annually on our way to the mountains of Colorado. One year I was looking for somewhere different in western Kansas to camp on the first leg of the trip. After perusing Google and a few RV park reviews, we chose to stay at Lake Scott in far western Kansas near Scott City, Kansas. It’s around 30 miles south of I-70 taking the Oakley Kansas exit. And that decision changed everything about my opinion of western Kansas. For more info, https://www.travelks.com/listing/historic-lake-scott-state-park-and-wildlife-area/2239/
Today, though, I’m going to feature what I consider to be THE most beautiful lake in Kansas. Lake Wilson. It’s between Salina and Hays Kansas, about seven or so miles north of I-70 on good asphalt road. Stop and shop at Kansas Originals while you’re at it!!! Very fun shop.
We camped this past week at the excellently maintained State Park there, which has several loops of water/electric sites as well as four full hook up sites and eight cabins. All the campsites have outstanding views of the lake with its clear water. Along with the state park there are three Corps of Engineers (COE) campgrounds, Minooka Park, Lucas Park, which are lakeside, and Sylvan Park which is below the dam with lots of shade and wind shelter. We would happily camp in any of these parks.
I have a feeling you’re not going to believe my opinion of this area of Kansas without personal photographic evidence.
Speaking of hiking trails, there are many miles of great options in this park. This month along with Dakota Trail and Cedar Trail, we opted to take the highly rated Rocktown Trail. It’s a 2.75 miles loop trail that is rated easy. There are several areas of fairly steep ascent/descent but nothing this old chick couldn’t handle easily. Man of my dreams had no problem with it, either. My sister and her hubby also navigated without issue. The views on this trail are nothing short of stunning. Again, personal photographic evidence: (click on individual pic to enlarge and scroll through each row)
Had it been a few degrees warmer I would have loved to get in the cool clear water there at the Rocktown shoreline. Kayaks would be another great option for exploring this area of the lake. Although, if you read my blogs very much you know my history with kayaks, SUPs, and basic innertubes is pretty dismal. 😂 On an earlier trip two years ago we did borrow a pontoon boat which was a supremely great way to explore every bit of the shoreline from the water. I excel at sitting inside a boat at a slow cruising speed with a life jacket on.
Mountain biking is quite popular at Wilson Lake, and much of the highly rated Switchgrass trail is visible from the drive through Hell’s Creek camping area of State Park. If you’re into such, google this trail and read the info and reviews. If you’re into fishing, you’re in luck at Wilson Lake. Lots of shoreline fishing as well as boat fishing. If you’re into photographing gorgeous sunsets, you’re most definitely in the right place at Wilson Lake.
And if you’re into exploring small towns in Kansas, there are two within 10 miles of the lake. Wilson, Kansas is the Czech Capitol of Kansas. We stopped at Grandma’s Soda Shop and had delicious Bierocks and Kolaches for lunch. Midland Hotel is a lovely historic building you can visit with a restaurant, The Sample Room Tavern, in the lower level which is open every day except Monday. We truly enjoyed visiting with the manager there, who showed us around the building and grounds and told a lot of the history of the area. Wilson is known for the WORLD’S LARGEST CZECH EGG! There is an annual Czech festival July 29 & 30 of this year. This little town has so much charm and obvious pride for their heritage. We loved it!!
And then there’s Lucas, Kansas, which is very near the northwest part of the lake. It must surely be the national, maybe WORLD center for quirky artwork. The Garden of Eden is the most unique of all tourist attractions in Kansas. You must see it to believe it. We didn’t stop and visit but a drive-by gives you a great view of the place. My sister used her phone to google info and told us a little about it as we drove by. But seriously, stop and see it. The artist who was 62 in 1907 when he started construction is….uh….still there. 😮 We will return to this area and I WILL get of out the car and look it over fully.
My favorite part of Lucas was driving down the main street and visiting Bowl Plaza. Bowl. As in Toilet Bowl.
The interior of this fascinating structure is absolutely delightful. I’ve never before felt compelled to take photos inside a public restroom. But you just must! The walls are covered in quirky stuff. And it is sparkling clean!! What a great way to provide a fun, interesting place for tourists to stop and go.
So really, people, what I want to say is when you’re traveling west in Kansas on I-70, take an exit for crying out loud. There’s so much beauty and so many interesting things to see. You’ve been wrong about western Kansas. I was wrong, too.