Melvern Lake: One of the best reasons Osage County is the Water Sports Capital of Kansas! – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Melvern Lake: One of the best reasons Osage County is the Water Sports Capital of Kansas!

Melvern Lake’s wide open water under wide open skies lures outdoor enthusiasts to this Osage County recreation hotspot.

Imagine a pristine lake surrounded by rolling hills, native grasses slowly waving in the breeze, songbirds making a gentle cadence in the cool evening air, and a glowing sunset lighting the western sky.

Scenic Melvern Lake, located in the southern portion of Osage County offers this very scene to its many visitors each year. Outdoor enthusiasts will find activities ranging from fishing to hunting, enjoying a picnic to camping, and boating to sail boarding.

Here are a few of the recreational opportunities that can be found during a visit to Melvern Lake.

Arrow Rock Park

ArrowRockPark_MelvernLocated about halfway up the south side of the lake, Arrow Rock provides a wonderful setting for a camping trip, picnic, a day of fishing or wildlife viewing. There are 43 campsites – 5 with electric hookups only and 14 with electric and water hookups. A picnic area on the central hilltop provides an excellent panoramic vista of the lake. A first come first served picnic shelter, picnic area, boat ramp, emergency telephone and shower building are also available.

Coeur D’Alene Park

CourDAlenePark_MelvernPositioned on the southeast corner of the lake, the park has 56 campsites – 35 with electric hookups. It also includes the lake’s Overlook Area, a swimming beach, several playgrounds, two reservable picnic shelters, two nature trails, an emergency telephone, a boat ramp, a shower building and the Melvern Lake Marina.

Sun Dance Park

SunDancePark_MelvernSun Dance Park is located at the southwest corner of the lake. The end of the bridle trail is just south of the 25-gravel camp pad campgrounds. The picnic area, with shelter, is on a hill overlooking the lake. A boat ramp provides visitors with access to the upper reaches of the lake.

Outlet Park

OutletPark_MelvernSituated on the downstream side of the dam, Outlet Park provides many opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast. Outlet Park has 150 campsites surrounding the scenic Melvern River Pond – 61 of the campsites provide electric and water hookups, 51 sites provide 50 amp electric service, water, and sewer hookups, and the remaining 38 sites provide electric, water, and sewer hookups. The park also offers over three miles of trail systems, a swimming beach, four shower buildings, laundry facilities, two pay phones, a historic bridge, a reservable picnic shelter, two playgrounds, a picnic area, a softball field, and a fishing pier.

Turkey Point Park

TurkeyPointPark_MelvernTurkey Point is located on the north side of the lake and caters to the needs of campers and day users alike. Turkey Point provides 47 campsites – 16 with electric hookups, and 20 with 50 Amp electric service and water hookups. The park also includes the Waterfront Day Use Area, a reservable primitive group camping area, a picnic area, two playgrounds, a boat ramp, an emergency phone, and a shower building.

Melvern Wildlife Area

With about 10,000 acres, Melvern Wildlife Area creates the best possible habitat for a diversity of species. Prescribed burning, water level management, and certain agricultural practices assure the finest in wildlife opportunities available. Native grasslands make up almost one third of the area, and agricultural fields provide a diversity of supplemental foods during the winter. Seven small marshes and waterfowl refuge area add to the habitat provided for the lake’s wildlife. The diversity of wildlife species at the Melvern Wildlife Area provides excellent opportunities for the hunter, bird watcher or anyone who enjoys the outdoors. Checklists listing the 140 species of vertebrates – including reptiles, amphibians, fish, mammals, and 237 species of birds found at the lake are available at the project office.

Area History

For centuries, the Marais des Cygnes River Valley has been an attraction for numerous species of fur-bearing animals and waterfowl. Indian tribes, including the Kansa, Osage, Shawnee, Delaware, Chippewa, Munsie, Iowa, Wyandotte, Kickapoo, Pottawatomie, and Sac and Fox hunted and fished the region prior to the white man’s discovery of the area. Early French trappers found this river and its surrounding marshy areas teeming with waterfowl and appropriately named it the Marais des Cygnes, meaning “Marsh of the Swans.”

This area was acquired in 1803 by the United States Government as part of the Louisiana Purchase. It remained home for many Native American tribes until around 1827, when the opening of the Santa Fe Trail through Osage County brought white settlers to the area. Osage County is named in honor of the Osage Indians and means “strong.”

The Marais des Cygnes River Valley, primarily an agricultural area, was devastated by the 1951 floods. This catastrophe prompted Congress to authorize construction of Melvern Lake in 1954 as a flood control and water resource development project. Construction began in 1968, with the dam completed in 1973 and the lake dedicated in 1975. The Melvern Lake Project consists of 23,362 acres of federally owned lands. The lake comprises 6,930 of those acres, and the remaining acreage is devoted to wildlife management and park development.

Eisenhower State Park

In 1990, Eisenhower State Park, formerly Melvern State Park, was re-named by the Kansas Legislature to honor Dwight D. Eisenhower, our homegrown 34th U.S. President. Getting to the park is easy and it is located 30 minutes northeast of Emporia on I-35 or 35 miles south of Topeka on Highway 75.

EisenhowerStatePark_MelvernThe park is located on the north shore of the 6,900-acre Melvern Reservoir, a man-made flood control project for the Marais de Cygnes River Basin. With 1,345 acres of prairie, 440 acres of woodland, and many areas for recreational activities, Eisenhower State Park is the perfect place for family gatherings or for a hunting or fishing trip.

The park has complete facilities, including 186 utility campsites, group camping, and modern shower houses and bathrooms. Many campsites are available for both RV utility hookup and primitive camping. In addition to those sites, Mamie’s Cabin, an ADA accessible rental, offers park visitors another camping option. Ike’s Shelterhouse, a wonderful indoor-outdoor facility, is available for rent as well. To reserve any of these facilities or campsites, call or e-mail Eisenhower State Park at least seven days prior to the date you plan to be at the park.

Whether you are staying at the park for a week or just a day, there are plenty of recreational activities to keep everyone busy. Hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, swimming, picnicking, boating, fishing, and hunting are popular pursuits. The park has outdoor games and kayaks available and park naturalists are on staff in the summer months to provide outdoor interactive programs.

Eisenhower is home to a burgeoning trails system open to hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders. Camping with horses is available in Cowboy Camp and the North Loop of Westpoint Campground. Crooked Knee Horse Trail offers equestrians a 20-mile excursion through the undeveloped west side of the park, which also offers excellent shotgun and archery hunting.

The Melvern Wildlife Area adjacent to the park is home to a variety of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, eastern wild turkey, bobwhite quail, squirrels, furbearers, and waterfowl, making it a great place to observe or partake in hunting (by permission only.) Hunting is allowed, except on the 1,000-acre waterfowl refuge, which is open to wildlife viewing throughout the year, with the exception of October 1 to January 15.

Camping and Facilities at Eisenhower State Park


The park has complete facilities, including 186 utility campsite, group camping, and five shower houses and bathrooms. Campsites for RV utility hookup are available as well as sites for primitive camping. Westpoint Campground is now open to regular season camping. Group camping is available in Abilene Campground and eleven additional sites are available for single reservations. Campers may stay at any one of the campgrounds for up to 14 consecutive days.

Other Facilities

Mamie’s Cabin

Would you like to stay at the park for a weekend, but don’t have a tent or camper? Mamie’s Cabin can provide an alternative camping option. Equipped with a full-size bunk bed and cot, as well as a picnic table, grill, and fire ring, the ADA accessible cabin is the perfect place to stay for a weekend at the Lake. Weather-tight walls and electricity make this place as cozy as home.

Ike’s Shelter House

Do you need a place to have a meeting or other group event? Ike’s Shelter House has round tables and folding chairs to accommodate 60 people. Equipped with electricity, air conditioning and heat, a large covered porch area with picnic tables, an outdoor grill, and a great grassy area, this facility is perfect for family gatherings and group meetings.

Recreational activities

Eisenhower State Park offers a multitude of recreational activities for visitors of all ages. Trails are available and being improved all the time for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. These trails are great places to learn more about Kansas’ natural resources while getting exercise. All trails are in close proximity of campsites for easy access.

Various outdoor games are available for family entertainment as well as kayak rentals for one and two-person water adventures. Park naturalists are on staff during the summer months to provide outdoor interactive programs. They are also available to make presentations at schools and group meetings during the year.

Trails and scenic viewing in Eisenhower State Park

Eisenhower State Park offers 1,785 acres of open prairie and timber where settlers homesteaded in the early 1800’s. Camping with horses is permitted in Cowboy Campground and on the north loop of Westpoint Campground – 4 sites have water and 10 sites have electrical only. Westpoint offers new horse wash bays and new corrals, while Cowboy Campground has added new tie-ups. Hike or bring your horse and experience the beauty of Eisenhower’s 20 miles of trails. Along the way you might spot deer, quail, turkey and numerous songbirds in this wildlife rich habitat.

Crooked Knee Horse Trail is named after the knee injury Dwight Eisenhower received while at West Point Military Academy. The trail is nearly 15 miles long. It passes through wooded areas, the water’s edge, and across a creek that feeds the lake. This is the same area that is used for hunting. Bobcat, deer,turkey and more can be seen along the trail. A 1.5 mile self-guided interpretive trail is located near Doud Camp.

Many changes are occurring in and around the park that will excite the trail enthusiast. Stop by the office for a current trails update.

Trails at Melvern Lake

  • Marais des Cygnes River Nature Trail – a self-guided interpretive trail approximately 1 mile long located along the original Marais des Cygnes River channel within Outlet Park.
  • River Bottom Nature Trail – approximately ¾ mile long located in a hardwood forested river bottom within Outlet Park.
  • River Pond Trail – approximately 1 1/2 mile long trail surrounding the Outlet River Pond. The River Pond was created during initial construction of the dam from fill material of the embankment.
  • Overlook Nature Trail – approximately 1/4 mile long through forested areas located within Coeur D’ Alene Park. This trail connects the Coeur D’ Alene Day Use Park to the Overlook area.
  • Breakwater Nature Trail – over 1/2 mile long through timbered areas along the shoreline located on the east side of Coeur D’Alene Campground.
  • Tallgrass Heritage Trail – approximately 4 1/4 miles long stretching through tallgrass prairie, ephemeral streams, timbered areas, as well as the shoreline of Melvern Lake. This trail stretches from Coeur D’Alene Campground to Arrow Rock Campground.
  • Crooked Knee Horse Trail – approximately 20 miles long located within Eisenhower State Park. This trail is open to hiking, biking, and horse riding. Named after a knee injury President Eisenhower received while at West Point.
  • Five Star Multiuse Trail – approximately 5 miles long located within Eisenhower State Park and is open to hiking and biking. A 2 mile section is set aside for archery. It consists of 20 targets set at various ranges and difficulties.
  • Scooter Trail – approximately 1 1/2 mile long located within Eisenhower State Park and is open to hiking, biking, and motorized scooters 50 cc and under from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Trail information from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

For information about the water sports, camping, hunting, fishing or other facilities available at Melvern Lake, contact:

Melvern Lake Project Office, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 31051 Melvern Lake Parkway, Melvern, KS 66510, 785-549-3318, email

Eisenhower State Park, 29810 S. Fairlawn Road, Osage City, KS 66523, 785-528-4102,

Melvern Wildlife Area, P.O Box 158, Reading, KS 66868, 620-699-3372.

Enjoy Osage County’s Lakes!

Except as noted, this revised and updated article was originally authored by Peggy Clark and published in the Osage County Visitor. Reprinted with permission. Campground maps: USACE.

Directions to Melvern Lake

From Lyndon, Kan., also known as Osage County’s Gateway to the Lakes, go 5 miles south on U.S. 75 to state Highway 278, then 3 miles west to the entrance to Eisenhower State Park. From Osage City, Kan., go east on state Highway 31 then south through Lyndon and follow above directions. From Topeka, go 31 miles south on U.S. 75, then west on Highway 278 to state park. From Ottawa, go 22 miles west on K-268 to U.S. 75, then south through Lyndon. These directions also lead to Melvern Lake Dam and Corps facilities; turn south off of Highway 278.


For more information about Melvern Lake, visit these links:


Cross section diagram shows Melvern Dam’s construction design. USACE graphic.

Aquatic-Nuisance-Species_coMelvern Lake has zebra mussels: Clean, Drain, Dry!
Don’t move live fish!
Don’t dump bait in the water or drainage ditches!
Learn more from KDWPT here.

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