The Milford Lake happens to be the biggest reservoir in the whole of Kansas which features 163 shoreline miles along with 16,000 surface acres. This lake provides extensive recreational opportunities along with various public ramps which are used to launch sailboats and canoes, swimming beaches and prime fishing spots. Called the “Lake of Blue Water” the stunning Milford Lake is easy to access and is located around 30 miles to the west of Manhattan in the Flint Hills of Kansas. The surrounding 21,000 acres and this lake positioned in the Clay and Geary counties is what constitutes one the most sought after outdoor habitats in Kansas.
Milford Lake is operated and owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is authorized by the Flood Control Act instituted in 1954. The construction of this dam along the Republican River took from 1962 to 1967 to complete. Over and above the Republican River the other main streams that flow into Milford Lake include School Creeks, Madison, Curtis, Farnum, Rush and Quimby. This multi-purpose project was created and built with the purpose of wildlife enhancement, flood control, recreation, water supply, navigation and water quality. Since it filled up to pool-level for multi-purposes in the year 1967, the Milford Reservoir has since become the Kansas recreational Mecca.
Visitors to this area enjoy a stop-over at the Corps Visitor Center which can be found at the south-end of this dam and this Center is open every day in the recreational season and from Monday to Friday from the fall to the spring. Visitors to this Centre get to learn about how this dam is operated and who resided in the area before European settlers arrived. Other highlights include viewing fossils that have been estimated at around 280 million years in age.
Milford Lake features a number of accommodation options that include public and private camp sites, cabin rentals and RV sites. The Milford State Park stretches over 1,084 acres and provides modern and primitive campsites along with sewer, water and electric hook-ups, restrooms and showers. For the visitors that prefer their creature comforts, this park also hosts 3 housekeeping cabins that offer heat and air conditioning. Some of the recreational amenities on offer at Milford State Park include a wildlife-viewing tower, a full-service marina, multi-purpose trail systems, picnic shelters, boat ramps and swimming beaches.
This park also features a jet-ski dedicated beach where the visitors to the park are able to launch their personal watercrafts while leaving their vehicles right by the edge of the water. The Milford State Park is also home to a private yacht-club and Sailboat Cove is a fantastic way for the sailing enthusiasts to meet up with other sailors. While the sandy beaches close to South Boat Ramp offer shelters for group and family picnics.
The variety of trails around the Milford Lake provides easy access to joggers, runners, cyclists, birdwatchers and sightseers or anybody in search of a scenic and leisurely walk. The Milford State Park provides 4 main trails for equestrians, mountain bikers and hikers that range from ½ mile all the way up to 8 miles. These 4 trails include: Eagle Ridge Trail, Crystal Trail, Pipeline Trail and Waterfall Pond Trail, while the Pipeline Trail is the primary access trail. This segmented system connects all the campgrounds and acts as the shortcut between each area.
Some of the wildlife that you can commonly view on these trails includes kingfishers, herons, beavers, quail, pheasants and wood ducks. In summer, you can also enjoy seeing the six-lined Racerunner lizards. The area also features off-road vehicle trails such as the 287-acre School Creek ORV area. Here vehicles which are 50 inch in width or less are permitted to make use of the area.
Milford Lake has become a sought after destination for the fisherman that enjoy catching fish such as catfish that includes the flathead, channel and blue, largemouth, walleye, white bass, smallmouth bass, the wipers which a combination of the stripes and white bass, sunfish, bluegill and the crappie. In the early part of April, the walleye can be located on the face of the Milford Lake dam in order to spawn and can also be found in the parts of the flats of Farnum Creek or the mud points close to School Creek. The largemouth bass and Crappie are abundant in the rocky and brushy coves even though the more traditional spots for crappie include the coves in Curtis Creek and Rolling Hills areas. The smallmouth bass are frequently found near the rocky points, the face of this dam and the lower part of this lake. The catfish and white bass are prevalent all over this lake and some of the more esteemed fishing-tournaments in the U.S. are often hosted at the Milford Lake.
The Wildlife Area in Milford is made up of around 19,000 acres of open to hunt public land. Some of the plentiful game is inclusive of squirrel, turkey, deer, goose, rabbit, prairie chicken, pheasant and duck. The trappers are interested in the beaver, muskrat and raccoon. About 2,300 acres located at the north-side of the lake has been dedicated to what is known as the Milford Wetlands Restoration Project that promotes migratory breeding and stopover habits of the shorebirds, waterfowl and other types of wildlife species. Around 1,100 of this dedicated area is the Steve Lloyd Refuge that offers wildlife viewing areas to the public. This Refuge is the ideal spot to view the different songbirds, birds-of-prey, shorebirds and waterfowl throughout the different seasons. The Wetlands Project and Milford Wildlife Area are managed by Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.
One of the other suggested wildlife viewing spots would be the causeway which is located at the north-side of the Milford Lake. A great spot to park your vehicle while viewing birds would be the Clay County Park that is positioned in Wakefield at the west-end of this lake. In the winter seasons the bald eagles are extremely frequent in this area and white pelicans also flock to this park in fall and spring. During migrations you can expect to see blue jays, a number of different woodpecker species, northern cardinals, wood ducks, geese, widgeon, Harris’ sparrows, geese, eastern bluebirds, grebes, cormonants, shorebirds, gulls and green herons.
The Milford Fish Hatchery and Milford Nature Center both found below this dam are a definite must-see and tours can be arranged by appointment. Take advantage of the Tall Grass Nature Trail which starts at this nature center. The butterflies and songbirds can be found in the habitat demonstration areas while the hatchery is opened to the public from April to October.