Big Hill Lake

Big Hill Lake
Photo by Jim Mason

The beautiful Big Hill Creek valley is the setting for this lake. Located in an oak-bluestem forest, commonly called the cross-timbers, the area provides a wide variety of native vegetation and wildlife.

The Ruth Nixon trail follows the western shore of the lake through woodlands of post, blackjack, red, and chinquapin oaks. Their acorns provide nutrition for wild turkey, gray squirrels, and fox squirrels. Look for deer trails and watch for cardinals, chickadees, bluejays, and woodpeckers. Armadillos, woodchucks, red and gray foxes, and bobcats can also be found here. In spring, listen in the evening and early morning for great horned owls, whip-poor-wills, and chuck-will's-widow. In early summer watch for eastern bluebirds, American redstarts, Carolina wrens, and Kentucky warblers.

Big Hill Wildlife Area, in the uplands, contains grasslands and hedgerows. Bluestem prairie grasses and wildflowers such as woolly verbena, green and butterfly milkweed, western yarrow, partridge pea, spreading aster, and dotted gayfeather provide habitat for mice, cottontails, and coyotes. Hedgerows of Osage orange, dogwood, and persimmon furnish nesting sites for Bell's vireo, orchard orioles, northern bobwhite quail, and scissor-tailed flycatchers. Reptile lovers may find ornate box turtles, six-lined racerunners, five-lined skinks, great plains rat, and ringneck snakes. In wooded areas be alert for copperheads. During migrations check the lake for snow and Canada geese, canvasbacks, redheads, pintails, and blue-winged teal. The Big Hill Lake Bridle Trail for equestrians loops around the northern part of the lake.


User fee, Shelter houses, Boat ramps, Showers, Water, Swimming Beach,

Camping icon Five campgrounds with utility and primitive camping.  Permit required.

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Trails icon Ruth Nixon Trail (1 mile one-way); Big Hill Lake Bridle Trail (17 miles one-way).

Click here to get county birding lists for Kansas. Click the icon to find a birding list for Labette county.

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Big Hill Lake map

Directions: From Cherryvale (50 miles west of Pittsburg) take U.S. 169 to Main Street. Turn east and go to the end of Main. Go south 1 block, then 4 miles east. Maps and other information are available at the Corps of Engineers Information Center on the west side of the dam. The main horse trail parking lot is just south of U.S. 160 at the upper end of the lake (red star).

Location in Kansas

For a Google Map of this site, click here.

Big Hill Wildlife Area encompasses over 1,200 acres of mixed upland tallgrass prairie and oak-hickory woodlands.

All areas are fenced and marked except for the southwest 80-acre parcel.   Parking areas are marked with red dots on the map.

This is a public hunting area.  Hikers should wear blaze orange if they are in the area during hunting season.

Two large ponds and numerous small ponds offer "farm pond fishing" and are magnets for local wildlife.  The larger ponds have boat ramps.

Big Hill Wildlife Area map

Ownership: The entities responsible for management of Big Hill are below.
Contact them if you have specific questions about use or management of the site.

US Army Corps of Engineers (620) 336-2741; 2,560 acres
Click here to visit the US ACE Big Hill Lake web page.
  Click the icon for the Corps map of the lake.

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism (620) 431-0380; 1,280 acres
You may download the KDWPT brochure on Big Hill Wildlife Area from their web site.

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Funded by the Chickadee Checkoff Program
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The Natural Kansas web site © 2011 by
the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism.

Re-publication of site content in any form other than for personal use requires written permission.  If you are a Kansas resident, please assist with this and other wildlife viewing and conservation programs by contributing to the Chickadee Checkoff on your state tax form.

Questions or comments about Natural Kansas may be directed to
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism