11 Fantastic Recreational Lakes near Wichita, KS

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The Wichita area is home to a variety of excellent lakes and reservoirs, offering a wide range of water activities, from swimming to paddling and water skiing.

Most options on the list provide access via state and county parks which boast campgrounds, RV sites, and hiking and biking trails.

The majority of options are less than an hour’s drive away, making for easy day trips.

Check out what Wichita has to offer!

Lakes near Wichita:

  1. Lake Afton
  2. Santa Fe Lake
  3. Augusta Lake
  4. El Dorado Lake
  5. Cheney Reservoir
  6. Harvey County East Park Lake
  7. Winfield City Lake
  8. Wellington Lake
  9. Fall River Lake
  10. Marion Reservoir
  11. Kanopolis Lake
Lakes near Wichita Kansas Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Lake Afton

a boy skipping stones on a lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Lake Afton
  • Distance from Wichita: 22 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Sailing, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing

Lake Afton is an artificial reservoir located approximately 20 miles west-northwest of downtown Wichita. The federal Works Progress Administration built a dam between 1939 and 1941 to create a recreational lake. 

Since the mid-1940s, Lake Afton Park has offered boating, swimming, water skiing, and fishing in and along Lake Afton. 

The 720-acre park also includes campsites, two playgrounds, and other amenities that bring people to this location and its 258-acre lake. 

Sedgwick County manages Lake Afton Park as a place that offers an escape from the largest urban area in Kansas. 

Visitors may see great blue herons, egrets, and migratory birds along the reservoir. Mudflats, cattail marshes, and prairie meadows sustain wildlife and wildflowers in this preserve. 

In addition to the natural features around the lake, this destination serves as the home of the Lake Afton Public Observatory on the park’s north end, an observatory that opened in 1981 with its powerful telescope. 

Lake Afton hosts a variety of species for anglers who visit the area. Commonly caught fish include largemouth bass, catfish, black bullhead, walleye, green sunfish, and bluegill. 

2. Santa Fe Lake

  • Website: Santa Fe Lake
  • Distance from Wichita: 18 miles (25 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping

A drive 18 miles east of downtown allows for a visit to Santa Fe Lake, a popular recreation site along an impounded section of Dry Creek. 

It was originally created for the Santa Fe Railroad in the 1920s to offer a reliable water source for steam locomotives in the Augusta area, a few miles to the east. 

When no longer needed for this purpose, the railroad transferred the 220-acre reservoir to Augusta in the 1950s, so the city could use it to supplement the community’s water supply. 

Santa Fe Lake has four beaches. A destination for swimming, fishing, boating, and paddle sports, this location attracts visitors from the Wichita region. 

Campsites sit along land near the lake, with two trails also available for those who wish to hike or bike through wooded areas, meadows, prairies, and along rocky terrain. 

Whether by boat or along the shoreline, those who fish here enjoy the relaxing aesthetic of Santa Fe Lake. Species found in this reservoir include white crappie, channel catfish, and largemouth bass. 

3. Augusta Lake

lonely kayaker on a lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Augusta Lake
  • Distance from Wichita: 22 miles (30 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking

Augusta Lake sits on the north side of the city with the same name, 20 miles east of central Wichita. 

Located within Augusta’s city limits, this 190-acre impoundment of Elm Creek has grown into a place where fishing, biking, hiking, jogging, boating, and kayaking are popular. A 4.1-mile loop trail around the lake attracts people throughout the year. 

Two city parks offer prime lakefront access. Located on the eastern shoreline, Shryock Park is especially crowded during summer months, when children enjoy the playground and splash pad. A boat ramp and fishing dock attract great interest. 

The largest park, Garvin Park, sits alongside the earthen dam wall at the southwestern end of Augusta Lake. Known for its glow-in-the-dark disc golf course and baseball fields, this location is a place where community gatherings often occur. 

The lake attracts interest from anglers who enjoy fishing from vessels as well as along the waterfront. Fish often found in Augusta Lake include crappie, bass, catfish, bluegill, walleye, and green sunfish. 

4. El Dorado Lake

el dorado lake kansas
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: El Dorado Lake
  • Distance from Wichita: 36 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Sailing, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing

The US Army Corps of Engineers created an expanded El Dorado Lake that covers approximately 8,000 surface acres in 1981. 

This reservoir took shape along low-lying land 35 miles northeast of Wichita and a few miles northeast of the City of El Dorado

This body of water covers an area that spreads beyond two earlier reservoirs that once existed. The first instance of El Dorado Lake took shape in the 1920s as a water supply, with another small lake built in the 1950s on an impoundment of Bemis Creek.

Crews breached the earlier dams to create the current reservoir as a reliable water supply and for flood control. The Walnut River flows into the reservoir from the north and continues beyond the south side of the dam. 

Multiple creeks also flow into the reservoir, creating a great destination for boating and fishing. The lake has 98 miles of shoreline. El Dorado State Park includes trails for biking, hiking, and horse riding. 

Those who enjoy nature viewing and wildlife will see deer, waterfowl, and many songbirds in this area. Fish in El Dorado Lake include white bass, white perch, crappie, walleye, and catfish. 

5. Cheney Reservoir

Pontoon boat full of people
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Cheney Reservoir
  • Distance from Wichita: 32 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Sailing, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing

Cheney Reservoir flooded land along a portion of the North Fork Ninnescah River when the US Bureau of Reclamation put a dam into service in 1964. 

Situated approximately 30 miles west of downtown Wichita, this reservoir provides recreation opportunities while also serving as a flood control measure in areas west of the city. 

With 67 miles of shoreline and more than 9,500 surface acres, this reservoir provides more than half of the water used by residents of Wichita. 

A visit to Cheney State Park offers the best way to gain access to the reservoir. With two marinas, multiple docks and several boat ramps, the park provides convenient lake access. 

Nature trails, a campground, cabins, and plenty of areas to explore await those who travel to this 1,913-acre state park. 

The Cheney Wildlife Area covers more than 5,400 acres along the north-central portion of the lake, preserving natural woodland and prairie grassland environments. 

Known as a great sailing venue with the winds that blow across the reservoir, Cheney Reservoir is the location where the Ninnescah Sailing Organization holds occasional regattas. 

Others hop in their boats to fish, casting a line into the water for bass, crappie, catfish, wiper, and walleye. 

6. Harvey County East Park Lake

a woman paddling a sup
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Harvey County East Park Lake
  • Distance from Wichita: 34 miles (40 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Sailing, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing

A little more than 30 miles north of the city, Harvey County East Park is a 314-acre impoundment along West Branch Whitewater Creek. 

The 1,300-acre county park has a campground, playgrounds, recreation fields, and trails. 

Warmer months attract swimmers and those who paddle small boats, kayaks, and canoes. Water turtles and egrets are often found along the shoreline.

Anglers enjoy catching channel catfish, blue catfish, and largemouth bass in this reservoir. Other fish found here include crappie and saugeye.

7. Winfield City Lake

a man water skiing on a lake
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Winfield City Lake
  • Distance from Wichita: 42 miles (50 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Sailing, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing

Timber Creek Lake, also known as Winfield City Lake, is a 40-mile drive southeast of downtown Wichita. Water from Timber Creek flows into this 979-acre reservoir from the east, with the dam on the west to offer flood control to the region. 

Owned by the City of Winfield, this reservoir and park in the Kansas Flint Hills area is a popular spot for boating, fishing, water skiing, and swimming. 

In addition to waterfront camping with electric connections, this park surrounding this lake permits primitive camping near the lakeside as well. 

Whether they stay overnight or come for the day, anglers who visit Timber Creek Lake will find catfish, bass, wiper, crappie, and walleye in the lake waters.

8. Wellington Lake

speed boat on a lake in Kansas
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Wellington Lake
  • Distance from Wichita: 46 miles (55 min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Sailing, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing

A drive 46 miles south from downtown Wichita, Wellington Lake is a relatively new addition to the landscape. 

Officials in Wellington, a few miles northeast of the lake, planned to double that lake’s surface area in the early 1990s.

 The expanded 674-acre lake offers enhanced recreational opportunities, with large boat ramps, an ADA-accessible pier, campsites, and picnic facilities available for those who visit the area.

Boating and water skiing are popular activities on Wellington Lake. 

Anglers who visit this body of water cast lines for bass, catfish, saugeye, wiper, and walleye.

9. Fall River Lake

fall river lake kansas
Source: dreamstime
  • Website: Fall River Lake
  • Distance from Wichita: 71 miles (1hr 10min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Sailing, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing

Canoeing is a popular pastime at Fall River Lake, a 2,450-acre impoundment of Fall River, 71 miles east of downtown. 

This scenic region between the Flint Hills grasslands and the savannah, woodland, and prairie of the Kansas Cross Timbers attracts naturalists and bird watchers. 

Falls River State Park, a 980-acre preserve, has multiple trails that introduce guests to the tall-grass prairie and forests along area flood plains. 

Those who visit the state park will see a variety of migratory birds and wildlife. Rich vegetation within the park provides a habitat that sustains many of the native animals that live within the park. 

Spring and fall wildflowers add color to this beautiful area, a place where swimming, hiking, picnicking, camping, water skiing, boating, and fishing are common activities. 

Year-round fishing brings anglers to Fall River Lake. White bass, largemouth bass, flathead and channel catfish, bluegill, and crappie congregate in these waters.

10. Marion Reservoir

Kayak lake red sunset
Source: pexels
  • Website: Marion Reservoir
  • Distance from Wichita: 55 miles (1 hr)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Sailing, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing

Marion Reservoir came into being as a successful flood control measure when a dam impounded a portion of the Cottonwood River in 1968. 

Similar to other reservoirs created under various Flood Control Acts of the 20th century, the creation of this 6,160-acre body of water 60 miles north of Wichita had the added benefit of offering recreational activities that did not exist prior to the dam’s construction.

Campgrounds with day-use facilities at Cottonwood PointFrench Creek CoveMarion Cove, and Hillsboro Cove cover various sections near the reservoir as part of the 6,000 acres of public land in the area. 

Improved boat ramps and lanes are found at some campsites, as well as free ones at Broken Bridge and Durham Cove. Ample opportunities for bird and wildlife watching exist throughout the park. 

Anglers enjoy fishing for white bass, crappie, channel catfish, and walleye at Marion Reservoir. Largemouth bass and flathead catfish are also found in these rich waters. 

11. Kanopolis Lake

  • Website: Kanopolis Lake
  • Distance from Wichita: 91 miles (1hr 25min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Swimming, Boating, Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddleboarding, Picnics, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Sailing, Water Skiing, Wakeboarding, Tubing

Kanopolis Lake became the first reservoir project in the region after the passage of the Flood Control Act of 1938. 

Created a decade later when workers completed the Kanopolis Dam, this reservoir 90 miles north-northwest of the city holds back water from the Smoky Hill River for water supply and flood control. 

Located in the Smoky Hills region with its woods, bluffs, and rolling hills, Kanopolis State Park became the first state park in Kansas when it opened in 1955. 

A picturesque destination, Kanopolis State Park has sections on both sides of the dam at this 3,500-acre lake. 

Waterfront access and boat launches offer opportunities for anglers to enjoy time along Kanopolis Lake while they fish. 

The top catches are channel catfish, crappie, saugeye, and white bass. The state record fish for a brown trout was caught here in 2018, weighing 4.62 pounds.

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