Best Lakes in Kansas for a Vacation

Let’s be real. Planning vacations around massive bodies of water is where it’s at! Whether you’re looking to go fishing, boating, or swimming, or you just want to take a relaxing walk at the water’s edge, there’s something for almost everyone at a waterfront destination at some of the best lakes in Kansas.

Kansas is not home to many natural lakes. However, using dams, dikes, and other barriers, people have created more than 100,000 lakes and ponds in Kansas. And guess what’s even better? These aquatic playgrounds offer some seriously awesome recreational opportunities.

Here is a list of some of the best lakes Kansas has to offer and some of the best things to do at each one.

Best Kansas Lake for Renting a Lakefront Cabin

Renting a lakefront vacation home or cabin allows you to enjoy everything the water offers at a leisurely pace. Whether you want to wet your fishing line, take in some rays on the water’s edge, or enjoy an evening stroll along the waterfront, you’ll have time for all of it.

Bourbon County, Kansas, is home to several picturesque lakes, including Lake Fort Scott, Rock Creek Lake, and Elm Creek Lake. The lakefront area of Lake Fort Scott, in particular, is dotted with cabins and lakehouses available for rent. Many of these rentals offer unobstructed views of the water, and some are even outfitted with docks. If you’re looking for a place to get away and clear your mind, a cozy cabin with a lake in the backyard just might do the trick.

While Bourbon County is a wonderful option for renting a lakefront cabin, it’s certainly not the only place in Kansas where you can do so. Pomona Lake, about an hour away from both Kansas City and Topeka, is a 4,000-acre body of water with opportunities for swimming, boating, and fishing. Pomona State Park offers lakeside cabins for rent, and private rentals are available as well.

Check local listings to find the perfect cabin for your budget and tastes, or check out the offers on Airbnb or Vrbo.

Best Kansas Lake for a Paddling Adventure

If you’re looking to take your kayak or canoe out on the water, Lake Scott may be just the place for you. A spring-fed freshwater lake, it’s surrounded by Lake Scott State Park and offers an abundance of recreational opportunities. Kayaks, canoes, and paddleboats are available for rent right on the lakefront, so you can easily get out on the water even if you don’t have your own watercraft.

The lake encompasses just over 100 acres, but it’s plenty big enough for a full day of paddling. It sits in the valley of the Ogalla Formation, naturally occurring sand and gravel bluffs that stand out among the Kansas plains. The surrounding geography is so interesting and picturesque that National Geographic named Lake Scott as one of the country’s top 50 state parks. Paddling can be great a way to get some exercise and build your cardio, but when you’re in a place as stunning as Lake Scott, you’ll also want to spend time just relaxing on the water, soaking in the scenery.

Another wonderful option for kayaking or canoeing in Kansas is Tuttle Creek Lake. Also located within a state park, Tuttle Creek Lake is significantly larger, at 1,500 acres. You can rent boats through the park office and enjoy nearly 15 miles of paddle-able water.

Best Kansas Lake for a Fishing Trip

It may be a landlocked state in the Great Plains, but Kansas has some wonderful opportunities for anglers. No matter the season, Eureka City Lake consistently ranks amongst the best. This 259-acre lake is located a little more than an hour east of Wichita. Diverse varieties of fish make their homes in the lake, from bass to saugeye to bluegill. But it’s probably best known as a great spot for catching white crappie, consistently ranking as one of the state’s best.

You can fish from a boat or from the water’s edge at Eureka City Lake, which has 17 public access areas around its perimeter. And you can do so year-round, as the lake has a heated fishing dock that anglers can use during the winter. Owned and managed by the city of Eureka, the lake also boasts an impressive 30-foot waterfall.

While you’re in the area, you can also check out Fall River Lake, a 2,500-acre body of water featuring a marina and a boat launch ramp. Adjacent to Fall River State Park, this is a great fishing spot for crappie, catfish, and bass.

Best Kansas Lake for a Day at the Beach

There are many reasons to spend a day at the beach, but just lying on the sand and taking in the beautiful scenery has to be near the top. And if it’s breathtaking beach scenery that you’re after, you’ll have a hard time beating Wilson Lake. Located in the Smoky Hills, the beaches at Wilson Lake offer some of the clearest water in Kansas, views of unique rock formations and grassy rolling hills, and plenty of recreation opportunities.

You can spend your day just lounging in the sand around Wilson Lake or get active while swimming, kayaking, or even water skiing. Surrounding the lake are many beaches, including two that are part of parks managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, Lucas Park, and Minooka Park. The most popular is the Wilson State Park beach, with its renowned sandstone columns. The park also has boat rentals, hiking trails, and lovely picnic areas.

Bloomington Beach at Clinton Lake is another spot where you can enjoy a sandy waterfront. Part of Clinton State Park, the beach on the north shore of Lake Clinton offers opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, and even getting a game in on the sand volleyball court.

Best Kansas Lake for Setting up Camp

El Dorado State Park is the largest park in Kansas, and it offers a range of camping opportunities that will appeal to just about anyone who wants to spend the night under the stars. It also has cabins if you’re looking to get outdoors but still want a roof over your head! The park has four main campgrounds and more than 1,000 campsites. Sites with full utility hookups for RVs are available, as are more primitive sites with access only to pit toilets. Nearly every campsite is located along the 98 miles of shoreline that hug El Dorado Lake.

El Dorado Lake is an 8,000-acre body of water surrounded by beautiful parkland and wildlife areas. The scenic hiking trails around the lake feature everything from steep, rocky cliffs to submerged railroad beds to whitetail deer and wild turkeys. The lake is open for recreational activities including swimming, boating, and fishing.

The Cedar Bluff Reservoir is another excellent spot for lakeside camping. Cedar Bluff State Park offers two campgrounds; Bluffton Area, which is more modern and developed, and Page Creek Area, which is more primitive and remote in comparison. Whatever your camping style, you just may find a new favorite campsite here.

Make Waves in Kansas

So, grab your crew, pack your swimwear and SPF, and get ready to make some epic memories at these Kansas lakes. Whether you’re a fishing fanatic, a paddleboarding pro, or simply seeking a sandy beach escape, you can find it all right here in Kansas. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to make a splash and create unforgettable moments in the heartland of America!


  • Chris Kane

    Chris Kane is a military veteran and former business owner currently living in the Des Moines, Iowa, metro. Chris is an inveterate entrepreneur and avid web developer who is not shy about sharing his opinions.

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