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When construction of Tuttle Creek Dam began in 1952, the premise was that Tuttle Creek Lake would be a "dry dam" passing water on through to the river below the dam, except in flood situations. No water conservation or any other uses were envisioned. A prolonged drought in 1952 and 1953, combined with the need for more flow on the Kansas River, and a desire for recreational development, prompted Congress to remove the "dry dam" restriction in 1957. Today, Tuttle Creek Lake is a 12,500-acre flood control and recreational lake making it the second largest lake in Kansas.
Nestled in the scenic Flint Hills, Tuttle Creek Lake boasts 100 miles of shoreline for fishing, boating, camping, picnicking, and a variety of outdoor sports. Eleven parks - six managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, four by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, and one by Pottawatomie County - offer a wide range of facilities such as camping, utility hookups, beaches, flush toilets, boat ramps, volleyball courts, horse shoe pits, and picnic shelters. Also available for lake visitors is a full service marina, nature trails, hiking, equestrian, and off road vehicle trails, and a shooting range. Over 16,000 acres of land surrounding the lake have been improved to benefit wildlife, and provide excellent hunting and wildlife viewing opportunities.
Whether you prefer power, paddle or sail, Tuttle Creek Lake is a boater's paradise. The size of the lake (14 miles long) combined with the prevailing winds make Tuttle Creek Lake one of the best sailing lakes in Kansas. Power boaters will enjoy the main body of the lake on calm days for water skiing, tubing, and pleasure boating. On windy days, many of the coves and the face of Tuttle Creek Dam offer protection from rough water. Canoeists and kayakers will find River Pond below the dam a perfect place for paddling. The state park offers canoe, kayak, and paddleboat rentals. Boaters should be aware that there are hazardous boating areas in the lake. Submerged objects are common in Tuttle Creek Cove, and between this cove and the dam. Lake levels fluctuate almost daily, so stumps sticking out of the water on one visit may be underwater on the next.
Swimming is allowed in almost all areas of Tuttle Creek Lake. Dangerous areas or high boat traffic areas are indicated buy warning buoys. There are two designated swimming beaches at Tuttle Creek Cove Park and River Pond State Park. Each area has a large sand beach and buoyed swimming area. A mile-long natural sand beach along the east side of the lake is best accessed by boat or on foot. Visitors will enjoy the gently sloping shoreline and lots of room for sandcastles and sunbathing.
Anglers will appreciate the variety of sport fish in Tuttle Creek Lake. Largemouth bass, saugeye, crappie, white bass, walleye, trout, blue catfish, channel catfish, flathead catfish, green sunfish, and bluegill can be caught from the open water or shore. Several fishing docks are located around the lake. Fishing tournaments take place at various times throughout the year. Fish caught in the majority of Kansas lakes and streams are safe to eat, but refer to the safe consumption link at the bottom of this page for more information.
The scenic wilderness around Tuttle Creek Lake offers miles of hiking, bicycling, off-road vehicle trails. The Randolph Equestrian Trail offers 13 miles of scenic beauty for horseback riding. It is also open to hikers. All trails around the lake offer excellent views of wildlife and the beautiful Flint hills. Bald eagles, and great blue herons are always a treat for bird watchers and photographers. The River Pond Area offers a quarter mile easy access self-guided nature trail with ten stops. An observation deck offers a spectacular view and the chance to see many species of wildlife. This trail is perfect for a family outing. Hunters will find the woods full of white-tailed deer, turkey, quail, pheasants and other game animals. There are special handicapped hunting areas that allow the use of vehicles.
For non-campers visiting Tuttle Creek Lake, the nearby town of Manhattan (the Little Apple) offers rustic and modern vacation rentals of all kinds. Manhattan is home to Fort Riley Amy Base, and Kansas State University and the KSU Wildcat football team. "Wildcat Weekend" home games draw thousands of fans. The downtown area is an interesting place to sightsee, shop, and grab a bite to eat. Just a short drive from Manhattan is the Konza Prairie, a 8,600-acre Nature Conservancy Preserve that features beautiful landscapes and a hiking trail open to the public. Manhattan is also the starting point of a gorgeous scenic byway which stretches for 47.2 miles across the Flint Hills. An hour east sits the state capital of Topeka, and two hours east will land you in Kansas City, the largest city in Missouri and home to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Whether your passion is fishing, hunting, boating or simply camping near the water, Tuttle Creek Lake and the surrounding picturesque Flint Hills has much to offer the outdoor enthusiast.
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