Horsethief Reservoir, Kansas, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Midwest - Kansas - Southwest -

Also known as:  Horse Thief Canyon Reservoir

The newest water playground in Southwest Kansas is Horsethief Reservoir. Named for Horsethief Canyon near the dam, the new reservoir provides both flood control and recreational opportunities to Kansas visitors. The reservoir was a long time in arriving, having first been discussed in the 1930s. The dam was finally approved and completed in 2009, and the reservoir filled by 2010. A 7,000-foot earthen dam across Buckner Creek transformed a mostly dry landscape into a 450-acre lake open for camping, boating, water-skiing, swimming, picnicking, fishing and hunting. An 1,100-acre park surrounds the lake, offering a haven for birds and wildlife. Recreational development is just beginning at Horsethief Reservoir, but already it has evolved into a favored site for area residents to enjoy the great Kansas out-of-doors.

Although the project was a long time in the planning stages, the recreational opportunities are ahead of schedule. The completed lake filled faster than expected due to a wet year, and Kansas Fish and Wildlife quickly moved to plant fish in the waters. Channel catfish were stocked the first summer and have already grown to a catch-able size. By 2012, crappie, walleye and largemouth bass were being caught. As boat ramps were installed during the excavation process, there are already boat launching facilities in several areas along the shoreline. This is big news in Kansas, which has almost no natural lakes and is ordinarily very arid most of the year. Dodge City, 20 miles to the south, has added the ‘fishing lake’ to its list of tourist attractions. All types of watercraft are allowed, including jet-skis. All watercraft must pay a fee to launch and follow all posted rules. The lake has already proven a draw to sports fans engaged in kite-boarding. Water-skiing and tubing are favorites activities.

Forty-two electrified campsites with water are provided, with other areas available to primitive camping. A shower building and restrooms are offered close to the camping area, and one rustic cabin is open and available for rental. A park office holds a small camp store and sells fishing and hunting licenses and permits for camping, boat launching and specialized activities along with camping supplies. Seasonal rental of some campsites is permitted, and annual or daily passes may be purchased for boat launching for a nominal fee.

Although no formal trails are yet laid out, the entire park is open for hiking. A favorite destination is the bluffs overlooking the south side of the reservoir. Some areas can provide for rough hiking, so beginning trekkers are reminded to keep their physical condition in mind because the area can get quite hot in summer. A 12-target archery range provides space for bow and arrow fans to practice their sport. There are picnic grounds, and playground areas will likely be provided in the future. Hunting is allowed in designated areas in-season with the proper permits. Both hunters and nature lovers enjoy the increasing numbers of deer, turkey, pheasant, geese, beaver and ducks beginning to make their home at Horsethief Reservoir. Guided hunts will be offered in the future.

The small city of Jetmore is eight miles east of Horsethief Reservoir and could be called its ‘home town’. Jetmore is already benefitting from increased tourism to the lake and encourages visitors to stop in town for supplies and services. A typical Kansas town with more than a century’s worth of history, the Jetmore Museum offers a glimpse into pioneer life from the 1860s showcased in the first limestone home built in the town. The town also holds a municipal golf course and such services as auto repair and hair stylists. A handful of restaurants and artisan studios round out the mix in this small prairie town.

Historic Dodge City is 20 miles to the south, offering a variety of annual events and preserved historical sites that celebrate its glory days as a cow-town of national renown. A full complement of lodgings is available in and near Dodge City including new hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, guest cottages and RV parks. Historic Main Street offers a walking tour, and the famed Boot Hill Museum complements the Gunfighters Wax Museum and the new casino nearby. Ten days of western fun ensues each year during Dodge City Days, featuring such activities as a rodeo, indoor craft show, professional barbecue cook-off, golf tournament, classic car show and other activities. Dodge City also boasts a raceway and several venues that produce expositions, theater productions and soccer.

Wide public support was required to bring Horsethief Reservoir into existence. Although the WPA discussed the site as a possible lake in the 1930s and the Army Corps of Engineers looked into the possibility in later years, it wasn’t until local businesses and farmers within the Pawneee Watershed District convinced local governments to take action that the dam actually was built. Four counties within the district voted to impose a 1.5% sales tax on purchases, earmarked for development of the lake.

The process hasn’t been without controversy. Early critics were concerned that Buckner Creek didn’t regularly carry enough water to fill the reservoir. Others feared that the dam would disrupt the sparse water flows downstream. The planning committee expected the reservoir to take about four years to fill; they were pleasantly surprised when the first year was inordinately wet and the reservoir filled almost full. Hydrologists believe that the regular release of water back into Buckner Creek will serve to improve wildlife habitat downstream by providing water during long dry spells. The Pawnee Watershed Joint District No. 81 is in charge of all dam and reservoir operations and is still fine-tuning operational plans to assure optimum use of the water and regulations for water release. Most experts in the area believe that Horsethief Reservoir will be the last large dam to be built in western Kansas, because the permitting process has become so restrictive as to preclude any plans for another. The Watershed District therefore is taking great pains to make sure that Horsethief’s water is best used to serve everyone’s needs.

You don’t have to live in southwestern Kansas to take advantage of what the local residents have created. Visitors are welcomed and encouraged. Although the reservoir is so new that it isn’t yet included on many maps, anyone in Jetmore or Dodge City can easily direct you. The lake gets more beautiful every day. And those catfish get bigger! Pack the fishing tackle and hook up the boat trailer. Come and experience the joys of a brand-new lake and enjoy some very old pastimes.

*Statistics are estimates as official figures have not yet been released.

Things to do at Horsethief Reservoir

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Water Skiing
  • Tubing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • Museum
  • Playground
  • Casino Gambling

Fish species found at Horsethief Reservoir

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Walleye

Horsethief Reservoir Photo Gallery

Horsethief Reservoir Statistics & Helpful Links

divider

Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Pawnee Watershed Joint District No. 81

Surface Area: 450 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 2,420 feet

Completion Year: 2010

Spread the word! Share our Horsethief Reservoir article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!

Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.