Reservoirs are rare in southwestern Kansas. As early as 1925, residents of the small town of Meade realized that having the only lake and park around would probably be a boon to local businesses. That year, the state legislature had created the Kansas Forestry, Fish, and Game Commission with the power to construct lakes and parks. Meade businessmen scrambled to attract the commission’s attention.
Warm hospitality, a good dinner, and an inspection of the area that fall served to convince the new commission that a recreational lake would be very beneficial to the dry land. The idea was approved in short order, although it took until March 1927 to finish the process of buying the land. The site chosen was naturally wet thanks to many springs, making it a logical choice for the proposed oasis on the High Plains.
Construction on the lake began later that same year. The grand opening was held on June 5, 1929, but this event was surpassed by the official opening day of fishing, when thousands of people congregated on the shore to cast their lines. Lake Meade became the first state fishing lake in Kansas.
Many changes have since occurred at Lake Meade. The pasture for buffalo and elk once raised near the lake has been replaced with a wildlife area. Heavy irrigation nearby has stopped the flow of many of the springs. The state park has been added to better manage the recreational opportunities.
Today, Meade State Park is the only state park in southwestern Kansas.
- Take eastbound U.S. Highway 54 out of Liberal for about 12 miles.
- Turn right on Meade Lake Road and continue for about 15 1/2 miles. (Meade Lake Road will become V Road after 5 1/2 miles.)
- At the fork in the road, keep left to stay on V Road and continue for about 1 3/4 mile.
- Watch for the state park entrance on the right.
Although located in the High Plains region, Meade State Park is not quite as typical of the area as one might think. Level shortgrass prairie surrounds the park, but the lake has permitted the growth of a variety of trees. Wildflowers are also on display seasonally.
Being one of the few places in southwestern Kansas with a sizable body of water, Meade State Park attracts some interesting wildlife. The birdwatching is diverse, with rare species occasionally finding their way to this oasis. Besides the usual birds attracted to the trees and marsh, watch for less common finds like the brown pelican and the Mississippi kite. But don’t stop with birdwatching. Look for other unusual animals like the Arkansas darter fish, found in spring-fed streams.
Meade State Park offers little room for hunting compared to some of the other Kansas state parks. However, dove and quail hunting is fairly productive. Some hunters may be lucky enough to find rabbit, waterfowl, turkey, or deer.
Lake Meade is an excellent fishing destination. Crappie is king, but bluegill, channel catfish, and largemouth bass are also readily available. For a special treat, try fishing for trout during the winter. The lake is stocked from November through March.
Please note that special boating regulations apply at Lake Meade due to its small size. Motorized boats are to be used for fishing purposes only, and they must be operated at no-wake speeds.
Hiking Trail: If you want to get out and walk, a half-mile linear trail skirts the northwestern part of the lake. This path will take you past some of the best places to watch for animals and wildflowers.
For an example of an artesian well, stop by Artesian Well Campground west of the lake. It’s one of the few artesian wells left in the area, with an estimated flow of 5 gallons per minute. The water comes from the Ogallala Aquifer and is forced out by pressure—no pumping required.
By appointment, you can take a tour of Meade Fish Hatchery, built in the 1930s. This hatchery raises walleye, grass carp, hybrid sunfish, channel catfish, and both largemouth and smallmouth bass. You will probably see the most fish from April through June.
More information about the history, structure, and practices of the fish hatchery.