Like nearby Cross Timbers State Park, Fall River State Park is located on former Osage Indian land. However, Fall River Lake is much older than Toronto Lake at Cross Timbers. In fact, it is one of the oldest reservoirs in Kansas.
When the Flood Control Act of 1941 was passed, dam construction was made possible on Fall River. Work began in 1946 and was finished in 1949. The state park did not come about until 1962, thanks to a lease from the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
Today, Fall River State Park typically ranks among the least visited parks in Kansas.
- Follow westbound U.S. Highway 400 out of Fredonia for about 17 miles.
- Turn north on Z 50 (Lake Road) and continue for about a mile.
- At the fork in the road, continue straight ahead on Township Road 534 to enter the park.
Fall River State Park marks the intersection of the Chautauqua Hills with the Osage Cuestas. Both prairie and forest are present, making an excellent diverse habitat for wildlife. In the plant kingdom, however, Fall River State Park is best known for its beautiful array of wildflowers in late spring.
If you enjoy seeing animals in the wild, Fall River State Park is an excellent choice for you. The birdwatching in particular is outstanding. Bring your binoculars!
Rockhounds will enjoy some of the geological features of the park. Sandstone boulders and limestone cliffs await.
Fall River State Park offers hunters a place to find everything from squirrel to turkey, but the park is best known for its deer populations. Your chances of success are excellent, but be forewarned—this opportunity is no secret among hunters!
If archery is your interest, portions of the Quarry Bay Area on the east side of the lake are available for use.
A fishing trip to Fall River Lake is almost always guaranteed to be a success when the waters aren’t too high. Crappie, walleye, channel catfish, flathead catfish, and largemouth bass are all waiting to be caught. The highlight, however, is the white bass fishing. Early spring is the best time to catch one. Try casting into either Otter Creek or Fall River just above the reservoir.
Children will enjoy the youth fishing pond in the Fredonia Bay Area on the south side of the lake. The pond is located near the entrance to South Rock Campground and is stocked aggressively to provide a rewarding experience. Sunfish, catfish, and bass are available.
- Overlook Trail: Just wanting to get out of the car and enjoy the view? A very short path (about a tenth of a mile) leads to an overlook in the Quarry Bay Area. An interpretive sign discusses the local nature, as well. Hiking or biking allowed.
- Post Oak Trail: This 3/4-mile loop explores the east side of the Quarry Bay Area. Along Craig Creek you will see the characteristic trees of the Chautauqua Hills, as well as some interesting sandstone formations. Both hiking and biking are allowed.
- Turkey Run Trail: Although only a mile long, this trail is known for its great views. The loop begins near the Gobbler’s Knob Campground in the Fredonia Bay Area, then winds through a wooded ravine and across tallgrass prairie. Keep your eyes open for wildlife. Both hiking and biking are allowed.
- Catclaw Trail: The views are excellent on this mile-long loop through the Quarry Bay Area. Either hike or bike to enjoy the lake and prairie scenery.
- Casner Creek Trail: This loop starts at Casner Creek Campground in the Fredonia Bay Area and is 1 1/2 miles long. It’s an easy trail for both hiking and biking. Nature-viewing opportunities abound, with both prairie and woodland habitats available.
- Bluestem Trail: Looping through the Quarry Bay Area for 1 1/2 miles, the Bluestem Trail can serve either as an extension of the Catclaw Trail or an interesting hike or bike in its own right. Much of the trail is prairie, but woodlands cover part of the path. Park staff recommend enjoying an evening walk on this trail to hear the wildlife.
- Badger Creek Mountain Bike Trail: This new trail is actually two separate loops at the time of this writing, both located near the bend on Badger Creek Road on the northeast side of the lake. The south loop is around 3 1/2 miles long; the north loop is about 2 1/2 miles long, but can be extended with another loop to make it over 3 1/2 miles long. Rocky and wooded, but not too difficult if biked at a fairly slow pace.
One popular activity at Fall River State Park is canoeing, both on Fall River and on Otter Creek.
Another favorite is stargazing. In fact, the park holds an annual star party toward the end of summer, where guests can learn about planets, constellations, and more.
Fall River State Park’s other annual event is the rendezvous, a historical reenactment of the days of Indians and mountain men. As the park site says, “Step back to 1815.”