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The boat glides slowly over the tops of the submerged trees. Carefully he stalks them, intent as any predator. It's early summer on Hillsdale Lake, and he's come for the largemouth bass. Overhead the bald eagle soars with a fish in its talons. If he's lucky, his turn is next. If not, there's still the water skiing, swimming, and boating on Hillsdale Lake's 4, 575 acres in northeast Kansas. Either way it will be a good day.
The US Army Corps of Engineers created Hillsdale Reservoir for flood control and as a water supply reservoir. The project was authorized in 1954, but construction on the dam on Big Bull Creek was not started until 1976. The dam is slightly over 18 miles upstream from the confluence of the Marais des Cygnes River. Hillsdale Lake was impounded in 1981. It didn't reach full pool, however, until 1985. The lake's 51 mile shoreline is public land which the US Army Corps of Engineers leased to the Kansas Division of Wildlife and Parks. The Corps still maintains a visitor's center at the dam which includes the "Hidden Spring Nature Trail."
Established in 1994, Hillsdale State Park has a campground, swimming beach and boat ramp. There is also a marina on Hillsdale Reservoir. When the lake was filled over 70 percent of the timber was left standing providing excellent fish habitat. Anglers love it and boaters are cautioned to be aware when the water is low. In addition to largemouth bass, Hillsdale Lake has abundant populations of walleye, catfish, crappie and bluegill. The lake's entire shore is available for fishing. The main part of Hillsdale Lake is the preferred place to sail, power boat, and water ski. The creeks and coves around the lake are great places to canoe or kayak.
Over 8,000 acres around the lake have been set aside for recreation. Trails wrap around Hillsdale Lake including hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails. The Saddle Ridge Trail in particular includes almost 50 miles of equestrian trail as well as a campground. About 7,000 acres of land are open to hunting in season. Hunters can expect to find turkey, deer, doves, quail, rabbits and some waterfowl.
Hillsdale Lake is just five miles northwest of Paola and less than 40 minutes from Kansas City. Paola has various accommodations, shopping and a charming historic district. Visitors can stroll past homes from the 1800's before stopping for lunch in one of the many restaurants. Paola also has vacation rentals and real estate for sale for anyone planning to extend their stay. It is also the county seat of Miami County. Established in 1855, Miami County was named for the Miami Indians that originally inhabited the area. Hillsdale Lake's proximity to Kansas City makes it easy to enjoy all the museums, restaurants and amenities of a city its size. Almost anything a guest could want is within an hour's drive of Hillsdale Lake.
Regardless of whether the fish are biting or not, there is sure to be something to please everyone at Hillsdale Lake. Drawn by the fish or museums, Hillsdale Lake is a fantastic destination for the entire family.
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