Toronto Lake is in the scenic valley of the Verdigris River, just south of the town of Toronto. It lies at the northern end of the Cross Timbers area, which extends through east-central Oklahoma into northern Texas. It was so named because the first explorers found it so brushy as to make it difficult to travel through. In Kansas, this region is known as the Chautauqua Hills and has remarkable habitat diversity, including upland and riparian woodlands, prairie glades and clear streams and rivers with excellent aquatic biodiversity. The characteristic habitat of the area is upland woodland on sandstone outcrops dominated by post and blackjack oaks. These scrubby, slow-growing trees may live a long time. A 20 foot tall specimen may be over 400 years old! Since they had no lumber value, they were not subject to being logged and those areas which have not been cleared for other purposes are - in reality - Ancient Forests.
Toronto Wildlife Area, located along the Verdigris River, Walnut Creek, and the north end of the lake, provides year-round viewing for white-tailed deer, red fox, raccoon, and turkey, particularly in the twilight hours. In summer, check the shallow waters for great blue herons. During spring and fall migrations many species of waterfowl can be seen on the lake. Plovers and sandpipers can be viewed on the northern and western mudflats. American white pelicans are common visitors to the open waters. Bald eagles perch and scavenge near the park office in winter. During summer, purple martins are seen around their houses at Toronto Point and Holiday Hill. Look to the sky and you will likely see circling turkey vultures. At Toronto Point is the Chautauqua Hills Trail, which passes around a small cove and through woodlands and sandy glades. Along the trail, at dawn or dusk any time of year, watch for deer, turkey, quail, coyotes, hawks, rabbits, and squirrels. From late spring to early fall, search for ornate box turtles, painted turtles, common garter snakes, and six-lined racerunners. Copperheads live here too, so exercise caution in your searching!
62 Utility campsites, 180 Primitive campsites, 4 Cabins (make a reservation online).
For more information on the Cross Timbers region, visit the web site of the Ancient Cross Timbers Project (from the University of Arkansas).
Contact the US
Army Corps of Engineers at (620) 658-4445
if you have questions about management of Toronto Lake.
Contact the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks
& Tourism at (620)
637-2213 if you have specific questions about use or
management of the parks or wildlife area at Toronto.
Questions or comments about Natural Kansas may be directed to
Questions or comments about Natural Kansas may be directed to Jim Mason