Boaters in south central Kansas have been disappointed by low water levels during the past two years, but recent heavy rains have remedied that situation. Most area lakes and parks will be fully operational during Labor Day weekend.
Fallen trees and limbs have been cleaned up at Pratt County Veterans Memorial Lake supervisor Nick Birdsong said. Most camp sites with electric and water connections are already taken for the weekend, either by people who are working in the area and living at the lake much of the time, or by reservations. Dry camping is also available on lake piers.
Bluegill fishing has been reported as excellent at the lake and largemouth bass and channel catfish fair, according to Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
Coldwater Lake is full, according to the lake manager, although the area didn't receive the extremely heavy rains that fell in counties to the north and east of it. The city-owned lake is ready for boating, fishing and camping. She recommended that campers make reservations — drive-ins may find nothing available but dry camping. Call 620-582-2702 for reservations.
Anglers are catching wipers and channel cat.
There's good news and bad news at another small area lake, according to the Associated Press. After two years of drought, Anthony City Lake is full, but it smells bad. The city is asking people not to have any contact with the lake water until tests determine what is causing the foul odor. Weeds that grew while the lake was dry raise safety concerns for swimmers and boat propellers.
City administrator Amber Kummer said the smell could be caused by decaying vegetation or by bacteria.
State parks and lakes are in good shape for Labor Day, according to Linda Lanterman, parks director for KDWPT.
Late last week, Cheney Lake was 3.77 feet above conservation level — good news after more than a year when water levels were too low for boating.
All campgrounds and boat ramps are open, she said, although two weeks ago at least one ramp was closed and some camping or day use areas were flooded. Water levels around the shores are going down fairly quickly.
"We're excited for Cheney," Lanterman said. "It's been a slow year, but it looks good. The staff is excited to see people coming again."
Labor Day campers can probably find a site if they drive in, but reservations are easily made by calling 316-542-3664 or by visiting reserveamerica.com. Select "Kansas" and search for camping facilities or type in a particular park.
El Dorado Lake was 2.5 feet above conservation, and water was being released last week, bringing the level down by three or four inches a day. Recent storms had no impact on ramps or campgrounds; however, the road into Boulder Bluff day use area is impassable because of heavy rains. Lanterman was hopeful that the marina would be usable by Labor Day.
The lake at Cross Timbers State Park was 14 feet above conservation, and dropping 8 to 10 inches a day as water was being released. About 2.5 hours from Pratt on U.S. 54, "it's a great scenery park," Lanterman said. All facilities should be operational by Labor Day.
Farther east, Fall River State Park, also a really pretty area, according to Lanterman, has some debris in the water, but is otherwise operational.
Everything is operational at Kanopolis State Park in Ellsworth County and Wilson State Park, on the border of Russell and Lincoln counties. Kanopolis was 4.5 feet above conservation and Wilson was below by a nearly equal amount.
Cabins are available at most state parks, and have been a very popular option, Lanterman said. Reservations must be made, and it's probably too late to secure one for the Labor Day weekend. Rates are lower for folks who can visit during the week, she advised.
Marion Reservoir, operated by the Corps of Engineers, has faced challenges most of the summer. An earlier blue-green algae warning was lifted, just before heavy rains washed out a road and flooded campsites. In Hillsboro Cove, 28 of 52 sites are available, and a few were opened up last week for reservations, Park Ranger Kyle Manwarren said. Thirty-seven of 94 sites in Cottonwood Point are open. French Creek, with 20 sites, is closed.
The lake is open for fishing and boating, and more campsites will be available as water recedes and lake staff get debris and mud cleaned up and check electrical boxes to make sure they're operating safely.
Floodgates have been opened and the floodwaters are going down, Manwarren said, but he warned it will be a slow process.
No state lakes are currently under warning or advisory status for blue-green algae. Colwich Memorial Park Lake, Riggs Park Lake in Sedgwick County and Memorial Lake, also known as Veterans' Lake in Barton County are all under warning, meaning that people and pets should have no contact with lake water.