Tucked away in a remote canyon in western Kansas is a lush oasis of over 1,200 acres with several large springs, streams, and creeks. One of the larger streams, Ladder Creek, was dammed off in 1930, creating the 100-acre lake that the park is named after. The historic Lake Scott State Park was named one of the top 50 state parks in the United States by National Geographic Traveler.
A large variety of animals call this place home. White-tailed and mule deer graze in the meadows, wild turkeys flock here, and beavers create their dams and dens on the water. Lake Scott State Park is also the only home to a tiny, rarely seen aquatic beetle known as the Scott Optioservus Riffle Beetle. A variety of different fish are abundant in the lakes and streams, and flowering plants and berry bushes grow wild throughout the area.
The large number of streams in the canyon has been drawing people to the site for hundreds of years and among the flora and fauna that are found here are also ancient ruins and historical buildings from centuries past. Today, the closest community large enough to have its own post office is the small town of Scott City, which sits around fifteen miles south of the park and has a population of less than 5,000.
The park is located in a fairly remote area of Western Kansas, about 40 miles south of Highway 70 and a mile west of U.S Route 83. The signs along these highways are fairly unobtrusive, so you will want to pay close attention as you get close to your destination as the roads leading to this park can be easy to miss. Route 95 is a fully paved two-lane road, but caution should be taken as it does have a few twists and curves on the way down to the lake and campground area.
The actual campgrounds are located near the northwestern banks of the lake. Most of the RV spots are in the Circle Drive campground, but there are a few standard sites with water and electrical hookups available in the Lakeview Campsites to the north as well. There is very little in the way of parking near the Lakeview Campsites, other than the sites themselves, but there are some suitable parking areas near Beach House Drive towards the northwestern corner of the Circle Drive Campgrounds.
While you may be lucky enough to find a suitable spot without making a reservation, the small but spacious campgrounds here are often filled to capacity, so reservations are recommended. There are 50 back-in style standard sites that have electric and water hookups, and just seven with full hookup capabilities. Motor vehicles are restricted to maintained roads and parking areas unless posted otherwise.
Grey water dumping is not allowed at this site and pets are welcome but must be restrained when on park grounds, either in your camper, or on a leash.Generator use is permitted during the daytime, but not during the quiet hours from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Cell service in this park is typically very spotty, making it a great place to unplug and unwind.
If you are staying here in order to enjoy the outdoors with your equine companion, there is a primitive horse camp area with a watering facility and hitching posts near the equestrian trailhead. Horses must be loaded and unloaded only in designated areas and are restricted to the bridle paths.
The lake is home to several species of fish including catfish, crappie, large-mouth bass, sunfish, walleyes, and rainbow trout and there are cleaning stations near the campgrounds. The fish in this lake are moderately sized with the stocked rainbow trout being the most abundant. During the trout season, typically November through April, anglers aiming for rainbow trout will need to acquire a trout permit as well as their regular fishing license. There is also a concessionaire near the swimming beach that has both camping and fishing supplies, including fishing licensenses. This lake does occasionally have blooms of toxic blue-green algae, so fishermen should watch for posted signs and avoid fishing in waters with visible algae.
Lake Scott State Park has a huge variety of flora including several types of poppies, asters, clover, and sunflower. Lists of commonly seen plants can be found on the state park websites, but it is a good idea to bring a field guide along. Some of the plants found here, while beautiful to look at, are also quite toxic, such as the flowering nightshades and poison hemlock plants, so do not ingest anything that you are not extremely familiar with. Along the shoreline, you can also find a number of cattail species and rushes as well, and several species of birds and amphibians may take shelter in them.
The trail that winds around the lake is around six-and-a-half-miles long and incorporates a variety of different environments. It is an intermediate trail that is around a foot and a half wide in most spots with a few steep climbs and drops to contend with, but it is well worth the effort. It travels through open meadows as well as more forested areas and rocky bluffs, giving travelers ample opportunity to view the lake and surrounding areas, as well as the wildlife in the area. Approximately two-thirds of the trail is paved, and the remainder is gravel and grass. There is a primitive horse camp and unloading area near the trail as well, just a little bit west of the north end of the lake. Keep an eye out for poison oak and poison ivy while hiking, biking, or horseback riding, as these vines sometimes creep onto the trails.
If you have a boat hauled behind your rig on or a trailer you are in luck at this state park. If not, you're in luck too. The concessionaire near the swimming beach not only sells fishing and camping supplies, but they also rent out boats. Canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats are available for a small fee and will provide you with a new perspective on the lake. There is a boat ramp near the concession stand, and you are welcome to bring your own boat as well. Slower speeds should be maintained when boating as wake speeds are prohibited and boating is not allowed in the areas that are designated for swimmers.
Historic Lake Scott State Park is referred to as historic for a good reason. There are over two dozen archaeological and historically relevant sites that have been recorded in and around the park. El Cuartelejo, the northernmost pueblo in North America, was built here by the Taos Indians around 1664 and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1964. In 1894, the original Euro-American settlers to the area, Herbert and Eliza Steele, also chose to build their home here, near the west bank of Ladder Creek. Their home, a two-level house made of limestone, is still standing and has been preserved much the way it was over a hundred years ago.
Lake Scott State Park is a paradise for birdwatchers with a list of over 200 species of birds that nest or migrate through the area. With so much to see you won't want to leave those binoculars in your campervan. The variety of habitats means that you will be able to spot an equally wide variety of birds. In and around the water you are likely to find geese and sandhill cranes as well as several varieties of duck, and more than a dozen shore birds. Wild turkeys and turkey vultures are commonly seen near the campgrounds, and there are many types of songbird that nest here, including meadowlarks, orioles, and grosbeaks, with woodpeckers keeping the beat.