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Why Stop at El Dorado State Park in Kansas?

Why Stop at El Dorado State Park in Kansas?


avatar   Stacy
Trip Date 07/21/2020
Posted On 09/07/2020 09:30:00

Camping | Hiking | Kansas | El Dorado | Wichita | El Dorado State Park | Kansas State Parks | Interstate 35 | RV Camping Near IH-35 | Pros and Cons of Campsites | Kansas State Parks Annual Pass | Kansas State Parks Passport



Our journey from the Austin, Texas area to the Black Hills of South Dakota was underway. After leaving Oklahoma, we continued north on Interstate 35 to Kansas. Our stay in El Dorado would be a short one, but at a great location to break up our drive. Next up would be a stop in the Kansas City area of Missouri. It was there where we would pick up our camping companions!

Although not our first time to camp in the state, it was our first experience at any of the Kansas State Parks. With a variety of water sports and good hiking trails, El Dorado State Park is popular with the locals. Due to the park's proximity to Wichita and to the interstate, it is also very convenient for those interested in RV camping near IH-35.

Along with photos from our stay, you'll find the pros and cons of campsites at the park. You'll walk away with an idea of what it's like to camp at and enjoy some of the park's amenities. Before wrapping up, we'll also provide some insights into the Kansas State Parks Annual Pass known locally as the Kansas State Parks Passport.

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Where to Find El Dorado State Park?

El Dorado State Park is the largest state park in Kansas. The park is located in the southeast Kansas city of El Dorado on El Dorado Lake. El Dorado can be found on the western edge of the Flint Hills about 15 minutes east of Interstate 35. The closest major city, Wichita, is just under an hour southwest of the park.

El Dorado Reservoir and El Dorado Lake

Construction of the El Dorado Reservoir was completed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in 1981. The dam forming the lake is walking distance from the state park and can be accessed by foot.


Uphill Hike to the Top of El Dorado Lake Dam

Uphill Hike to the Top of El Dorado Lake Dam

After our trek uphill to the top of the dam, we caught our breath while enjoying the view. Although the time was nearing sunset, there were still some boaters and water-skiers out on the water.


Waterskiing at Sunset on El Dorado Lake

Waterskiing at Sunset on El Dorado Lake

Before retreating to the bottom of the dam and making our way back into the park, we couldn't miss a few attempts at capturing the evening sunset.


Catching a Sunset from atop El Dorado Lake Dam

Catching a Sunset from atop El Dorado Lake Dam

Colorful Clouds over El Dorado State Park

Colorful Clouds over El Dorado State Park

Camping at El Dorado State Park

We didn't spend as much time enjoying the park's amenities and searching for our favorite sites as we would have liked. (We, unfortunately, were forced to use some of our time changing a flat tire and buying new tires!) We did take some photos during our time in the park which will give you a glimpse into a stay at El Dorado State Park. Although more limited than we prefer, we'll also include some commentary on the amenities and services which we did have time to see or experience.


Fun Times . . . Not! (Unloading the Cargo Area & Changing a Flat Tire)

Fun Times . . . Not! (Unloading the Cargo Area & Changing a Flat Tire)

Reservations for campsites at one of the four campgrounds within El Dorado State Park can be made online through Reserve America. With primitive campsites, full hook-up sites and everything in between, the park has over 1,000 campsites plus a limited number of cabins.

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Check-in to our pre-reserved campsite was quick and easy. Upon reaching the park entrance gate, we provided our name and site number and we were on our way. (The confirmation email that we received does request that campers arriving after 5:00 PM coordinate their check-in prior to arrival.)

We chose Site 921, a standard site with 30-amp electric and water, within Big Oak Area 1 of the Walnut River Campground for our 2-night stay. Parking at the site is back-in on a fairly level gravel/dirt parking pad.


Utility Connections at Site 921 in Big Oak Area 1

Utility Connections at Site 921 in Big Oak Area 1

The site was clean upon our arrival, however, other than the fire pit and grill, the onsite amenities had seen better days. The picnic table, while still functional, was in need of replacement boards. To be deemed usable, the food preparation/serving area was in dire need of repair. (Constructed of two boards, one of the boards was almost completely missing.)


Onsite Amenities in El Dorado State Park

Onsite Amenities in El Dorado State Park

The site is huge - there is more than ample room between sites for privacy. Although none are spaced to accommodate hammocks, tall trees do surround the site providing shade throughout the day.


Well-Shaded Site 921 at El Dorado State Park

Well-Shaded Site 921 at El Dorado State Park

Our phone and data service with Verizon were adequate, however all services with T-Mobile were virtually non-existent. There were a limited number of broadcast television channels with good reception during our stay.

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Shared amenities at El Dorado State Park include group picnic areas, bathhouses, a laundry room, dumpsters and a dump station. Due to the time that we spent changing and replacing tires, we didn't have a chance to check out most of the shared facilities.


El Dorado State Park Laundry Room

El Dorado State Park Laundry Room

There was a heavy downpour that lasted for several hours during the final night and morning of our stay. Both the dirt/gravel parking pad and surrounding grassy area which made up our site were quite muddy following the storm. Additionally, as we were likely the first to dump once the rain had passed through the area, the dump station was underwater as well.


Preparing to Dump Following a Rain Storm

Preparing to Dump Following a Rain Storm

Fun Times To Have at El Dorado State Park

El Dorado State Park has trails for hiking, biking and horse-back riding. In our limited time, we enjoyed our hikes on the paved trails along the Walnut River which passed just behind our site. We also did some short hikes between campgrounds and to the sandy beach.


The Walnut River in Kansas' El Dorado State Park

The Walnut River in Kansas' El Dorado State Park

Hiking on the Boardwalk over the Walnut River

Hiking on the Boardwalk over the Walnut River

In addition to spending time at the beach, youngsters will enjoy the playgrounds in the state park.


El Dorado State Park Playground

El Dorado State Park Playground

After hiking to the beach area nearest our site on the first evening of our visit, we had high hopes of enjoying our second afternoon in the water. The two beaches are open for human visitors (no pets) until 9:00 PM daily. Both the sandy beach and water were quite inviting, as was the large grassy area with covered picnic tables interspersed throughout.


Shaded Picnic Table, Sandy Beach and Clear Water!

Shaded Picnic Table, Sandy Beach and Clear Water!

There's so much more fun to be had at El Dorado State Park, but since we didn't have the opportunity to explore, we'll wrap up with what the park is best known for - water activities. With 8,000 acres of water, most campers come to the park with plans to go boating, fishing, waterskiing, jet skiing or, of course, enjoying the swimming beaches.

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Kansas State Parks Annual Park Vehicle Permit

Anyone planning to spend multiple days at Kansas State Parks should consider purchasing an Annual Park Vehicle Permit. For those not qualifying for any of the available discounts, the permit comes at a cost of $25.00 per year. The vehicle permit allows entrance into Kansas State Parks without paying the $5.00 daily vehicle entrance fee. The break even point for the permit is just 5 days. After that, permit holders save money each day that they visit a state park within the remainder of the year. (The vehicle permit can be purchased through the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism either online or upon entrance to many of the state parks.)

Residents of Kansas can purchase the optional Kansas State Parks Passport along with their annual vehicle registration at a discounted cost of $15.50. The Passport offers the same benefits as the annual vehicle permit and is valid until the expiration of the vehicle registration. Passport holders save money by spending at least four days at Kansas State Parks. (The Passport can only be purchased in conjunction with vehicle registration either online, through the mail or at a motor vehicle registration office.)

Kansas seniors (age 65 or better) as well as those with a license plate or placard indicating a disability also qualify for a reduced price vehicle permit. The price of the discounted permit is $13.75 per year. (The vehicle permit can be purchased through the KDWPT upon entrance to many of the state parks.)

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Off-the-Beaten-Path in Kansas

We love researching and finding off-the-beaten-path sites that will add more fun memories to our road trips. We are putting together a list of those that we have had the opportunity to visit while road-tripping through Kansas.

Do you enjoy stopping at places that are less crowded, but still intriguing? If so, don't miss our post next month that will include nearby sites for you to check out including Teter Rock in Teterville and Texaco Hill.

Kansas State Parks

Which of the state parks in Kansas are your favorites, and why?





Why Stop at El Dorado State Park in Kansas?







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