While some Kansas reservoirs were extremely controversial, Lovewell Reservoir had support from the local residents. The northern part of the Smoky Hills is dry, with winds that quickly evaporate any rain that falls. A reservoir could be used for irrigation, so the project met with relatively little resistance. In fact, the locals were proud to put the name of area pioneer Thomas Lovewell on the lake.
The United States Bureau of Reclamation began work on the dam in 1955 and completed it in 1957. The state park was opened to the public ten years later.
In 1969, a local resident was walking along the shoreline during a drought and turned up an interesting discovery—a mammoth skull. Further excavation along the north side of the lake has revealed the remains of several more mammoths, including bones that were polished and made into tools at some point in history. These fossils have stirred up quite a bit of controversy because the injuries to the skeletons suggest that the mammoths were killed by humans, placing mankind on the North American continent at an earlier date than was previously hypothesized.
- Head east on U.S. Highway 36 out of Mankato.
- Turn north on Kansas Highway 14 and continue for 9 miles.
- Turn right on North Shore Road and continue for 4 miles.
- Turn right to enter the park.
The flora of Lovewell State Park is typical of the Smoky Hills region. Trees grow on the bluffs lining the reservoir, but shortgrass prairie predominates, particularly on the north shore.
Interesting wildlife abound at this park. Mammals such as prairie dogs and ground squirrels provide entertainment for visitors, but the birdwatching is the highlight. This reservoir is an oasis for migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, and more. Look for gulls, herons, eagles, pelicans, cormorants, snow geese, whooping cranes, and more. But don’t neglect the wooded areas, either. Woodpeckers and the black-billed magpie of the West are waiting to be spotted.
Rockhounds may enjoy seeing the chalk bluffs on the south shore of the lake.
Lovewell Wildlife Area offers hunters opportunities to catch deer, turkey, quail, pheasant, and waterfowl. However, this is a small park that is hunted fairly heavily. It takes a patient hunter to succeed here.
Archery enthusiasts can take advantage of the archery range east of the Willow campgrounds. Archery courses and events are held from time to time.
This lake can be busy, but the catfish and crappie populations are still good enough to attract anglers. Also try your luck at bluegill, walleye, wiper, and white bass.
Fishing clinics and tournaments are held on occasion. Some of these events are specifically for children.
Lovewell State Park does not have any trails. For exercise, hike or bike the paths connecting Walleye Point with some of the other park facilities. To see wildlife, walk along the shoreline.
Stop by the interpretive center at the park entrance to learn more about the wildlife of the area. An overlook is also provided.
Historic landmarks in the park include an 1860s cemetery east of the Bluebird Camp Area and an old limestone school, where church services are held throughout the summer.
“The age and taphonomy of mammoths at Lovewell Reservoir, Jewell County, Kansas, USA”
Technical paper about the mammoth remains, made available by the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.