El Dorado Lake, located in South Central Kansas, was completed in 1981 and is an 8,000-acre reservoir that borders on the rolling mounds and impressive tall grass prairies of Flint Hills. The average depth of this lake is 19 feet and has an impressive potential storage volume of 50 billion gallons. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the project for flood control and water supply. An impressive shoreline of 97 miles is also offered for recreational use. The top of the dam is 1,370.5 feet over sea level.
El Dorado Lake is made up of several different recreational areas – Walnut River, Shady Creek, Overlook, Boulder Bluff and Bluestem. They are all known for having incredible wildlife watching. The Bluestem area is best known for its incredible opportunities to watch bald eagles, tree swallows, warblers and Canada geese; the rock quarry at Boulder Bluff is home to many waterfowl and collared lizards; Shady Creek is abundant in greater prairie chickens, deer, nighthawks and meadowlarks; Walnut River is home to minks, vultures, hawks, woodpeckers, cardinals and chickadees. Some of the most popular El Dorado recreational activities include horseback riding, jet skiing, water skiing, boating and biking. There are four major campgrounds (with some having electric hookups) included in the local facilities, along with playgrounds, picnic areas, marinas, boating ramps and cabins. Equine and hiking trails as well as beach swimming areas are also available, in addition to a sailing club, laundry facilities, shower houses and restrooms.
The hiking trails surrounding El Dorado Lake are home to many of the 800 different varieties of Kansas wildflowers, especially from May to June and August to September. During those times, hikers should be watching out for purple prairie clover, upright coneflower, Missouri evening primrose and rose verbena. A brief walk out to the limestone lookout point is located on the basin’s left side, which offers some of the finest views of El Dorado Lake and the dam. There is a plaque commemorating an old schoolhouse (circa 1897) that occupied the premises previously. Boulder Bluff Horse Trail is 12 miles long wrapping itself around the picturesque shoreline of the lake, and is well-suited for biking, hiking and horseback riding. The 2.5-mile ADA Trail winds its way through the area of Walnut River. The rugged 2-mile biking bath called Double Black Diamond Mountain Bike Trail can be explored on foot as well. The 3/4 mile Teter Nature Trail winds along scenic woodlands in the Butler County Historical Society Wilderness Area. Here you can expect to see various plant life, turkey, raccoon and deer. Another short, 3/4 mile trek is Walnut Ridge Trail that connects with Linear Trail. In turn in crosses Walnut River bridge.
Hunting and fishing are also popular activities at El Dorado Lake, with its abundance of game fish, including black bullhead, white crappie, flathead catfish, channel catfish, walleye and largemouth bass. Other fish that are present include the bluegill, smallmouth bass, black crappie, carp and white bass. From October 15 through April 15 the Walnut River is stocked with rainbow trout. In addition to a regular fishing permit, sportsmen are also required to get a special trout permit. The most fishing success can be found along the rip-rap (which are stones the line the lake’s border to prevent erosion) along the railroad and close to the dam. Largemouth bass and crappie are drawn as well to the timer fish attractors strategically located throughout the lake.
Old Bluestem Lake is also a favorite hideout for flathead catfish. For those hunters who have the proper permits, deer, pheasant, turkey, prairie chicken and quail can be hunted on the lake’s northern side grounds.
The bluegill is a type of small-mouthed sunfish that has an upper jaw that doesn’t reach past the front of its eye. There are 10 spines on the spinous dorsal, that are connected broadly to the soft dorsal, where frequently there is a black blotch close to the bases of the final rays. The pointed, long pectoral fins go well beyond the front part of the eye when it is bent forward over the eye. It has a moderately prolonged back ear flap. The sides and back are dark olive-green and has a brassy and emerald shine; the belly and breast are reddish orange or yellow. The lower area of the gill cover and chin are blue. The prolific breeders can be found in many different habitats, ranging from large reservoirs to farm ponds to almost any stream that can support fish. Its natural range has been expanded since they are stocked statewide now for feeding largemouth bass, and numerous anglers like to catch them. They prefer backwaters and deeper pools of low-gradient streams, especially in overflow pools located along the river floodplains. High turbidity is not tolerated well by them and they best thrive in clear, warm waters with either aquatic plants or another type of cover. Bluegill feed by sight primarily, at all water levels, where they home in on moving object. They feed on the surface when mayflies emerge. The smallmouth is limited in what it eats. Fry eat small crustaceans mainly; adults mainly eat insects, in addition to snails, crayfish, and small fish. The gregarious fish mainly swim in groups of around 20 to 30; they move to shady spots or deeper water at midday. They feed within the shallows in the evenings and mornings. The bluegill provides anglers with plenty of sport when they are taken on light tackle. Their flesh is well flavored, flaky and firm. Bluefish are stocked as forage nearly universally in artificial ponds for largemouth bass.