Lake Scott State Park

Lake Scott
Lake Scott
All photos on this page by Jim Mason

Lake Scott State Park lies along Lake Scott in picturesque Ladder Creek Canyon. Listed in National Geographic Traveler as one of the top 50 state parks in the U.S, this oasis-like setting is very popular with campers and anglers.

Here you can find the ruins of El Cuartelejo, the only known Indian pueblo in Kansas and the northernmost one in North America.  It was established in the 1600s by Taos Indians and later occupied by Picuris Indians. Both groups were attracted to the area by the many large springs, one of which (Big Springs) can be reached by hiking on a short nature trail. This spring, which provides a flow of about 400 gallons per minute of 58 degree F water, has been stocked with rainbow trout. The area's unique wildlife species-the Scott riffle beetle-is a tiny, seldom-seen insect that lives in the springs feeding into the lake. Because this beetle is found nowhere else in the world, it has been listed as a Kansas endangered species.

View down Ladder Creek CanyonWhite-tailed deer are common in the area and mule deer are occasionally seen. Beaver dams are seen along Ladder Creek. Perhaps the most visible species of wildlife are the thirteen-lined ground squirrels, wild turkeys, black-billed magpies, and turkey vultures. Early in the morning the vultures are commonly seen roosting on the bluffs or perched in cottonwood trees or on fence posts. They wait for the warming air to create thermals capable of maintaining their effortless soaring. The area is also attractive to other interesting birds: Lazuli buntings, Say's phoebes, common poorwills, and black-headed grosbeaks. During summer, nesting rock wrens scurry along the canyon walls. The area is also one of the most predictable places in Kansas to find nesting yellow-breasted chats.   Reptile lovers should note that this site is known for its large variety and numbers.

Just north of Scott City, Lake Scott State Park and Wildlife Area is recognized by National Geographic as one of the "top 50" favorite natural sites in the country. This fascinating oasis is located in a canyon etched out of the Ogallala formation by Ladder Creek. A 1,120 acre "isle of green," it has been the garden spot of the plains for millennia. Wildlife and man alike have refreshed themselves with the waters gushing from Big Springs and Barrel Springs. Taos indians came here from northern New Mexico in the 1600's to escape the Spanish, and built a pueblo known as El Cuartelejo ("old barracks"), dug irrigation ditches, and planted crops. They shared this site with their Apache friends for 20 years. In 1888 Herbert Steele moved into the canyon and established a successful truck garden enterprise using some of the remaining irrigation ditches. Herbert and his wife Eliza often invited friends and neighbors to the canyon for outings, and in 1928 the land was acquired by the Kansas Forestry Fish and Game Commission.

Outside of the park, along Beaver Creek, is the site of the last battle of the Indian Wars in Kansas (September 27, 1878), where the U.S. Cavalry was beaten back by a band of Northern Cheyenne escaping a reservation in Oklahoma. Led by Chief Dull Knife and Little Wolf, they fled north to Nebraska, killing settlers in Decatur County on the way.


bulletWater, Showers, Swimming beach, Shelter house, Playground, Concessions, Canoe & paddle boat rental, Boat ramp.

Camping icon55 Utility campsites, 175 Primitive campsites.  2 cabins (make a reservation online).

Discover what to see, eat and do in Kansas.
Plan your trip today, at!

Trail icon Big Springs Nature Trail (0.25 mile loop);
Lake Scott Hike,
Bridle & Mountain Bike Trail (7 mile loop circling the lake)

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

Find nearby Geocaches! Click the icon to locate nearby Geocaches

Lake Scott map

Directions: From Scott City (35 miles north of Garden City) travel 10 miles north on U.S. 83 to the junction of K-95. The park entrance is on K-95, another 3 miles north.

Location in Kanas

For a Google Map of this site, click here.

Ownership: The entity responsible for management of Scott State Lake is below.
Contact them if you have specific questions about use or management of the site.

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism (620) 872-2061
Click here to visit the KDWPT web page for Lake Scott State Park.  You may download the park brochure or email the Park Manager from links at the top of that page. 
Download the wildflower list for Lake Scott here.

 1,120 acres

Northwest Kansas North Central Kansas Northeast Kansas Southwest Kansas South Central Kansas Southeast Kansas

Funded by the Chickadee Checkoff Program
Chickadee Checkoff logo
Click here for a brochure!

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