Rocktown Trail and Wilson Lake


| əˈmēn ə bəl |

(adjective) Open and responsive to suggestions.

As we continued our exploration of roadside attractions in Lucas, Kansas, it looked like we were going to have to adjust our loose itinerary right off the bat. Although I was disappointed that the World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things (I really love typing that) was closed, Jeannie’s helpful suggestion for sandwiches and hiking the Rocktown Trail at Wilson Lake sounded promising.

My curiosity was already piqued about the lake after seeing the cryptic “Ed Root ‘Neath  Lake Wilson” on Lucas’ iconic welcome sign/oversized travel plate. More to come on unraveling that mystery. But beyond the lore, Wilson Lake was stunning. It’s often listed as the most beautiful lake in Kansas, and I’ll have to say I agree. 

Wilson Lake was stunning on a brilliant December afternoon.

Its crystal clear waters are flanked by rolling hills, canyons, rocky outcrops and sandy beaches. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation originally authorized construction of Wilson Lake for irrigation, flood control, recreation and ecology. However, the Saline River, which would feed the reservoir, made the water too salty for irrigation purposes, so the Bureau turned over management and operation of the project to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps of Engineers completed construction of Wilson Dam in 1964 and continues to manage the reservoir today. 

In addition to swimming, boating, fishing and camping, there are miles of hiking and biking trails. We had one of those sunny, surprisingly warm, midwinter days at our disposal as we hit the trail.

Quiet secluded beaches were tucked among the craggy rocks.

Since Jeannine had recommended Rocktown Trail, and we were seeking “The Geologic Wonders of Kansas” after all, we figured it was destiny. Like most of our socially distanced trip, we encountered only one other human and her very friendly dog the entire time we were there. The three-mile trail started out through typical Kansas prairie, but as we got closer to the lake, it gave way to red Dakota sandstone vistas and eventually massive rocky formations that rose out of the water. Between the towering rocks, charming inlet beaches were formed. Even on a busy summer day, I could imagine finding some quiet solitude here.

The lake is nestled in the Smoky Hills region which occupies the north-central part of the state. The sedimentary rocks here are comprised of sandstone from the Dakota Formation, different from the Niobrara Chalk Formations we had explored earlier. This is also different from the Greenhorn limestone, deposited a bit further north. The Greenhorn limestone proved to be very functional to early settlers and is the reason this area is also known as Post Rock country, which led to another travel rabbit hole as we were headed out of town the next day.

Always looking for the next big thing.

But for this day, we finished the trail, a bit peckish and with a little time to kill before checking into our AirBnB in nearby Russell. I am always seeking oversized things … so we closed out the day in Wilson, Kansas, home of the World’s Largest Czech Egg. Wilson was desolate on a Wednesday evening in December, so we wandered the streets enjoying the quiet and the various smaller (still pretty big) Czech eggs placed throughout town. Lured by the promise of a cold beer, we entered the historic Midland Railroad Hotel and had the hotel’s staid walnut-lined dining room all to ourselves while we planned our next day’s agenda, which would include the Grassroots Art Center and Garden of Isis.

Wilson Lake is located along the Post Rock Scenic Byway about five miles north of I-70, west of K-232. The city of Wilson is located approximately two miles south of I-70.

Published by Village Witch

Because we could all use a little magic.

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