Perry Lake was yet another project made possible by the Flood Control Act of 1954. After the Great Flood of 1951, many tributaries of the Kansas River were dammed, including the Delaware River. As usual, compromises had to be made. Small towns such as Ozawkie had to be sacrificed for the larger population centers of Lawrence and Kansas City.
The lake was constructed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers and completed in 1966. Perry State Park was created in 1968.
- Drive east out of Topeka on U.S. Highway 24.
- Turn north on Kansas Highway 237 (will become West Lake Road) and continue for 4 3/4 miles.
- The park office and pay station will be to your left (look for the signs).
Perry State Park offers some prime Glaciated Region scenery. Woods predominate, but tallgrass prairie and cropland offer the habitat diversity necessary to draw plenty of wildlife.
The best place to see amphibians and reptiles in the park is in the marshes. There you will also find typical wetland bird species. For pelicans and bald eagles, however, try the lake. In wooded areas near creeks, keep your eyes open for mammals ranging from beavers to bobcats to brown bats.
Hunting is one of the major attractions at Perry State Park. Restrictions apply in some areas, so check the rules before you go. Also be forewarned that you are not likely to have the park to yourself.
Waterfowl are readily available in the marshes and on the lake. Squirrel and rabbit are also abundant. Quail are available, but hunting for them can be challenging thanks to thick plant growth. Also try for deer, turkey, and pheasant. Trappers have particularly good luck at this park because of the excellent habitats provided for furbearers.
A youth/mentor hunting area, open all year, is located across the Delaware River from the town of Valley Falls. This area is also available to handicapped hunters with written permission.
Perry Lake frequently ranks among the nation’s top bass lakes. Locally, however, the lake is best known for excellent crappie and channel catfish opportunities. But don’t stop there. Walleye, sauger, bluegill, sunfish, and flathead catfish are also readily available.
Special fishing opportunities include ice fishing in winter and the occasional fishing tournament.
- Delaware Marsh Trail: This is an easy hike through the wetlands of Delaware Marsh. You will enjoy 1 3/4 miles of potential wildlife viewing, and you’ll learn a bit about wetland management along the way.
- Thunder Ridge Trail: A brochure makes this hike of 2 1/2 miles through Slough Creek Park interesting. Along the way you will learn about the natural scenery. Rugged terrain makes this trail challenging.
- Perry State Park Biking and Hiking Trails: Starting in the Delaware Area of the state park, this 22-mile trail system can be downright grueling, particularly for bikers. Forests, bluffs, and rocks are highlights, but there are some rewarding views along the way. A short loop near the trailhead was designed for children not ready to go the whole way. Watch out for ticks.
- Perry Lake Trail: Don’t worry—even though this trail is a 29-mile loop, primitive camping areas are provided and the path has been divided into smaller sections for day hikes. Trailheads are located in Slough Creek Park, the Old Military Trail Area, and near the Ferguson Boat Ramp. The terrain can be rugged, but the views are spectacular. Avoid this trail in hunting season. Hiking only.
- Perry State Park Equestrian Trails: This 34-mile trail system meanders through the Jefferson Point Area of the state park before crossing into Rock Creek Park. The trails in the state park are moderately easy and offer good chances to see wildlife. The trails on Army Corps of Engineers property, however, are very rugged. Designed for horseback riding, but hiking is also allowed.
- ATV and Motorcycle Trail: Located in Outlet Park, this trail offers a variety of terrain and winds throughout over 140 acres. A children’s area is provided. Please note that the trail is closed in wet weather.
Perry Lake is a favorite with local sailboat enthusiasts.