Several historical facts make Pomona Lake unique. First, it is just a few miles south of the old Santa Fe Trail. Second, it gives Osage County, Kansas, the distinction of being the only county in the United States with two federal reservoirs (Melvern Lake at Eisenhower State Park is the other reservoir in the county).
Like many Kansas reservoirs, Pomona Lake was authorized in 1954. The United States Army Corps of Engineers began work on the project in 1959. The dam was completed in 1963, but it took another two years for the lake to fill up. Shortly after the dam was built, a state park was created to provide recreational opportunities for visitors.
Today, Pomona State Park is known for being a true getaway, with its quiet natural scenery and its relatively low traffic level.
- Take Kansas Highway 68 west out of Ottawa for about 13 miles.
- Continue straight onto Kansas Highway 268 and drive another five miles (follow the signs).
- Turn right onto Kansas Highway 368 and continue for about a mile to enter the park.
Pomona State Park is a prime example of a landscape that has been restored to native Osage Cuestas scenery. Much of the park is covered in tallgrass prairie, while streams and shoreline foster oak, hickory, dogwood, hackberry, cottonwood, and American elm trees.
This park is considered an excellent place to see a variety of wildlife, particularly birds. Watch for shorebirds, waterfowl, woodland songbirds, and bald eagles. Also keep your eyes open for bobcats, coyotes, and squirrels. Not all of the wildlife is pleasant, though—look out for copperheads and rattlesnakes!
Most of the public lands surrounding the lake are available for hunting. Potential game includes quail, pheasant, turkey, rabbit, squirrel, and deer. Waterfowl is also abundant in the marshes near the lake.
Pomona Lake offers outstanding opportunities to catch crappie and channel catfish. But don’t overlook the other possibilities. Some trophy-quality wiper and flathead catfish have also been caught here. In early spring, try fishing for white bass in Dragoon Creek. Largemouth bass fishing can be a little slower, depending on the season, but is still worth a try.
For something a little different, try ice fishing in the winter. A favorite summer event is the Kids’ Fishing Derby held on the first weekend of June every year.
- Deer Creek Nature Trail: Located in Outlet Park, this quarter-mile trail is for hiking only. A brochure is provided to help you identify the trees growing along Deer Creek.
- Witches’ Broom Nature Trail: Another woodland trail, this one is half of a mile long and is located in 110-Mile Park. Interpretive stops will acquaint you with the native flora and fauna.
- Rising Sun Trail: This half-mile loop circles through the Ah-Ket-Ah Area and is open for hiking and biking. You will mostly explore the timber near the lake.
- Buckbrush Trail: Offering both hiking and biking, this path is over 3/4 of a mile one way, one of the trailheads being at Burning Heart Campground, the other at a nearby picnic shelter. The trail roughly follows a treeline marking the edge of the state park.
- Hedge-Wood Trail: A handicapped-accessible linear trail that is also open for hiking and biking. This route is just over a mile long one way and connects the park entrance with Big Bear Campground. Much of it is through trees.
- Blackhawk Multi-Use Trail: This trail is over 30 miles long, offering a challenging route for hikers, bikers, and horseback riders. The path can be muddy and overgrown, but it showcases a variety of scenery near 110-Mile Cove, including both woodlands and grasslands. Exercise caution in hunting season.
Park staff work hard to provide visitors with a variety of interesting events. Some of these activities include fishing contests, fireworks displays, church services, hiking events, and free coffee and donuts.
Exploring the lake with all kinds of watercraft ranging from canoes to sailboats is popular at Pomona State Park. However, there are many underwater dangers, so be careful.
In winter, visitors are welcome to try snowshoeing and cross-country skiing along the shore.