Perry Lake Reservoir is tucked away in the northeast part of Kansas around 40 miles to the west of Kansas City. For those who are fortunate enough to locate it, it provides lots of fun. The US Army Corps of Engineers built the reservoir to primarily be used as a flood control project. However, it has been developed carefully to provide all kinds of outdoor recreation for the area’s visitors. Every type of leisure activity is offered, ranging from beaches, restaurants, wildlife refuges, marinas, boat ramps and camping areas. The downstream communities of Kansas City, Bonner Springs, Lawrence and Perry are protected by the reservoir against damaging floods coming from the Delaware River along with its tributaries.
Perry Lake Reservoir was built in 1969 and covers much of the area that was previously the Delaware Indian Reservation. This irregularly-shaped reservoir provides more than 11,000 acres worth of water surface on the multi-purpose level. However, in case of flooding, it can be expanded to more than 25,000 acres. The wetlands are home to a wealth of waterfowl and wildlife, and provides viewing of wildlife year around and during season hunting in certain areas. The lake supports all kinds of boating and water sports at regular levels. On a majority of the lake there are no boat restrictions, so visitors are able to enjoy sailing, pontooning, wake boarding, tubing, jet skiing, water skiing and power boating. There is also a yacht club that hold regular activities for its members, sponsors regattas, teaches sailing and provides its members with slips. All kinds of boats are rented by the three marina concessions and they also make repairs, have bait and boating stores, restaurants, gas docks and rental slips. The numerous inlets and covers offer excellent paddling venues with lots of wildlife to view. Perry Lake offers something for just about every interest and throughout the year receives numerous visitors.
At Perry Lake fishing is a major sport. The lake is well-known for being a very productive sauger fishery. Breeding stock is also provided to other Kansas lakes. Channel catfish of good size are common here, especially in the ‘hog trough’ productive fishing hole. The bait stations make it very attractive to fish from the shore for young children. There are plentiful amounts of white bass, walleye, flathead catfish and white crappie. There is fish management water fluctuation plan that is used for assuring various species have optimal breeding grounds. Ice fishing is very popular during the winter, especially in the area of Rock Creek Park. There are two swimming beaches, while the day’s visit is rounded out by the playgrounds and picnic areas. Overnight campers can find many campsites in various areas surrounding the reservoir. Camping with all of amenities is offered by Perry Lake State Park, including beautifully shaded campsites, electricity and showers.
Most fishing water located in Kansas has crappie in it. In private ponds they are a big favorite and are in most of the small lakes located across the state. There are some rivers that have small crappie populations. The most consistent and best stringers continue coming from larger lakes. There are two sets that crappie are categorized into. The darker of these two species is the black crappie. It has spotted sides, seven to eight dorsal spines and is found more usually in northern states. Deeper, larger impoundments are preferred by the black crappie, with water that is fairly clear up to slightly stained with trees or brush for cover. The world record is 6 pounds and ideal water temperature is 66 to 76 degrees. The white crappie is a light color, has eight to nine vertical bands across its sides, six dorsal spines. It prefers quiet backwaters and is mainly found in southern states. White crappies are frequently seen in murky water. They prefer warmer water that is slightly stained up to murky with no or little current and trees or brush for cover. The world record is 5 pounds, 3 ounces and the ideal water temperature is 64 to 80 degrees.
Four other camping areas are offered by Perry Lake. For the most part they have fewer amenities. They are of particular interest to those who come for horseback riding, bicycling or to hike the great trail system. There is a very popular equestrian trail and campground. There is also an ATV area. Interpretive trails provide information on the area’s grasses, trees, birds and wildlife. The finest spot for viewing bald eagles is one area on the eastern shore. At times a breeding pair will raise its young in plain site from the hiking trail. There are also several different organized trial systems that wind along the shoreline. It includes the Perry Lake Hiking Trail, which is almost 30 miles long, which is among the first of the National Recreation Trails located in the state of Kansas. The somewhat demanding Old Military Trail runs along the lake. However, fans of the trail say that is provides the most scenic area. There is an old US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) campground that allows limited camping with prior permission.
More than 21,600 acres worth of public land surrounding the reservoir are owned by the USACE and managed for wildlife. Ducks, geese, rabbit, squirrel, pheasant, quail,turkey and deer can be found on the federal public hunting grounds. A majority of management work is achieved through leasing lands for agricultural purposes to local farmers with lease stipulations for maximizing wildlife habitat. More than 1,000 marshland acres have been developed within 14 different areas along the shoreline for benefiting wildlife. Further north on the Delaware River is the Perry Lake Marshland Refuge areas. Those areas are a paradise for bird watchers. Waterfowl, shorebirds and other types of migratory bids stop to mate, nest and rest. Some species remain in the area year-round.