Wilson Reservoir and State Park, in north-central Kansas, is located in the heart of the Smoky Hills. It is considered by many to be the most beautiful lake in the state.
Most of Wilson Lake lies in Russell County, with a small portion of its southeastern arm extending into Lincoln County.
The dam and reservoir were built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and completed in 1964 at the cost of $20 million. Its purpose was primarily for flood control, but it is also used for wildlife management and recreation. The Saline River is the reservoir’s primary inflow from the west and outflow to the east. The Corps manages 9,000 surface acres of water and an additional 13,000 acres of surrounding land. Wilson Lake has three recreation areas managed and maintained by the Corps of Engineers, including Sylvan Park, Lucas Park, and Minooka Park. The Rocktown Natural Area comprises 305 acres in Lucas Park. It is named for the sandstone pillars, ranging in height from 15 to 30 feet. Lucas Park and Minooka Park host swimming beaches and boat ramps. All three parks include hiking trails and camping facilities. Shower buildings, sanitary dump stations, playgrounds, and drinking water are located in most parks.
Wilson State State Park sits on the south side of Wilson Reservoir. It is divided into two areas — Hell Creek and Otoe. It is one of Kansas’ premier recreation hot spots to fish, hike, and water-ski and boasts of having one of Kansas’s best Mountain bike trails.
Wilson Reservoir features a rugged shoreline punctuated by scenic cliffs and rocky outcrops. The park and surrounding wildlife area offer the opportunity to view and photograph deer, pheasant, waterfowl, songbirds, rabbits, and turkeys.
Wilson Wildlife Area is on the upper end of 9,000 acre Wilson Reservoir. The 8,069-acre public hunting area comprises 5,000 acres of rugged rolling hills of native prairie, approximately 2,000 acres of cropland, and 1,000 acres of riparian timber along the Saline River, Cedar Creek, Turkey Creek, and Elm Creek. The area has a waterfowl refuge that was established in 1996.
Fish species in Wilson Lake include black bass, channel catfish, crappie, smallmouth bass, striped bass, walleye, and white bass.
The lake is located along the Post Rock Scenic Byway about five miles north of I-70 from the Wilson exit.
4860 Outlet Blvd.
Sylvan Grove, KS 67481
©Kathy Alexander/Legends of Kansas, updated December 2022.