Trails add new dimension to park experience
PRATT -- Across the state, Kansas state parks are developing more trails each year. At Tuttle Creek State Park , the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) has purchased 50 acres of ground adjacent to Rocky Ford Fishing Area along the Big Blue River from the Barnes/Dyer Bridge to the south side of River Pond. The new acquisition will allow anglers access to nearly one mile of shoreline fishing and connect Tuttle Creek State Park to city of Manhattan water service.

A National Recreational Trail Grant has been obtained to develop a concrete trail along the river, complete with benches. Trees will be planted in the corridor and will provide excellent wildlife habitat, especially for bald eagles. Property fences are currently being constructed, and the first portion of the trail from the new campground to Rocky Ford Fishing Area will soon be complete. The project is expected to be finished in 2007.

At El Dorado State Park , work has begun on an interpretive walking trail through a section of the Kansas tallgrass prairie. Located along Highway 177 in the southeast end of the Shady Creek Area, the interpretive trail will meander through almost a mile of pristine tallgrass prairie. The diversity of wildflowers in the area is one of the best in the country. Whitetail deer, turkey, quail, prairie chicken, and waterfowl may also be found. Interpretive signs along this concrete trail will provide information about the plants and animals in this area.

At Cedar Bluff State Park , hiking and biking trails have been steadily increasing in popularity. In December of 2005, a project was approved for a grant through the National Recreation Trails Act. The project will consist of a hiking and biking trail that will traverse both Cedar Bluff State Park and Cedar Bluff Wildlife Area, enroute to the scenic, cedar-lined bluffs for which the reservoir was named.

The trail will begin in the Page Creek Area of Cedar Bluff State Park and will be broken into two segments. The first portion will be a hard-surfaced interpretive trail, which branches off of the main trail leading to the scenic bluffs and loops back to the trail head on a shorter, more accessible route. The second segment (approximately 5 miles), will consist of a mowed pathway that will follow the shoreline at an elevation just above conservation pool over to the scenic bluff overlook and then back on a return loop through the pristine western Kansas prairie.

Sand Hills State Park already has eight trails within the park, including interpretive, hiking, and horseback riding trails. There are 14 miles of trails that weave through 10- to 40-feet high sand dunes, grasslands, trees, and ponds. Soon, the area will have a campground to accommodate trail users. The Horse Trail Campground will be located south of the park maintenance shop on 56th Street. The campground will cover approximately 40 acres and will surround a large pond with islands.

All sites will have water/electric hookups and some will have sewer hookups. There will be a main road around the pond with back-in sites to the inside and drive through sites to the outside. The outside sites will have horse pens at each site. The large pond will be stocked with an assortment of fish species. This project will take several years to complete.

For more information on Kansas state park trails, visit the KDWP website. Just type " trails " in the search box.