Kanopolis Lake, Kansas, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Kanopolis Lake — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

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All About Kanopolis Lake

Kanopolis Lake is a man-made reservoir located near Ellsworth, Kansas. The lake is the result of a dam constructed from 1940-1948 on the Smoke Hill River, making it one of the oldest lakes in the state. The main purposes of Kanopolis Lake are flood control, irrigation, recreation, fish and wildlife, water quality, downstream low flow augmentation, and water supply.

Constructed because of the Flood Control Act of 1938, Kanopolis Lake was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and they still maintain it to this day. The main purpose of the lake is flood control, and to maintain the minimum flow of the Smoke Hill River. Under normal conditions the lake boasts 41 miles of shoreline, and when it is at flood stage, it more than triples to 135 miles of shoreline.

Recreation is another important purpose of Kanopolis Lake, and for this purpose there are six recreation areas around the lake. Four are maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers, and the other two are part of Kanopolis State Park. Kanopolis State Park was, in fact, the first state-owned park in Kansas. The park boasts over 300 campsites, a service marina, 25 miles of hiking trails, swimming beaches, horseback riding, biking trails, and numerous picnic areas.

Since recreation is a vital role for Kanopolis Lake, the Corps and the State have made it easy for anyone to get access to the water. Three public boat launches are available, and one whole section of the lake is set aside for fishing only. Check with local officials, though, because this section is part of a wildlife refuge, and is sometimes closed to the public. Fish species include White Bass, Walleye, Saugeye, Channel Catfish, Wipers, and Crappie, attracting thousands of fishermen each year.

The wildlife refuge at Kanopolis Lake is one place that has more than its fair share of numerous species. Coyote, beaver, mink, bobcat, raccoon, muskrat and that lone American marsupial, the opossum, abound. And even more easily found are squirrel, whitetail deer, quail, rabbit, pheasant, prairie chicken, turkey, and several types of waterfowl. Hunting is allowed with a permit during proper seasons.

Kanopolis Lake is carved out of the nearby Dakota Sandstone Bluffs, and there are numerous caves to explore around the lake; the most popular are located near Horsethief Canyon. Trails abound, and when you are finished crawling around in the caves, you can climb up the bluffs to remind yourself what is above all of those fascinating caves. In addition, Ellsworth County has a couple of interesting museums: Fort Harker and Hodgen House. They are worth a visit if you have time.

The water is lovely on a hot summer day, and Kansas sure gets its share of those. Kanopolis Lake is a high traffic lake as far as water sports go, but there is room for all. Boats, jet skis, water skiers and canoes are all at home with one another, and everyone keeps it civilized. Swimming is a great way to cool off and spend time with the kids. The swimming beaches are well maintained, as are the picnic and camping areas. There are plenty of things to do in this area – enough to plan a whole vacation around!

Things to Do at Kanopolis Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Jet Skiing
  • Water Skiing
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • Museum

Fish Species Found at Kanopolis Lake

  • Bass
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Perch
  • Saugeye Perch
  • Walleye
  • White Bass

Find Places to Stay at Kanopolis Lake

If you’re considering a Kanopolis Lake lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Kanopolis Lake Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Kanopolis Lake lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • Booking.com – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, Booking.com connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • Hotels.com – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, Hotels.com is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Kanopolis Lake Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Surface Area: 3,406 acres

Shoreline Length: 41 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,463 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 1,426 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 1,508 feet

Average Depth: 15 feet

Maximum Depth: 35 feet

Water Volume: 50,273 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1948

Water Residence Time: 3 months

Lake Area-Population: 543

Drainage Area: 2,327 sq. miles

Trophic State: Eutrophic

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

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