Toronto Lake

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.

Cross Timbers Trail sign
Trailhead sign - Photo by Jim Mason

The state park at Toronto Lake was re-named as Cross Timbers State Park in 2002 to reflect the unique character of the area.  For a close-up look at these trees, hike the Ancient Trees of the Cross Timbers trail, located just to the right of the entry booth at the Toronto Point area (red star on map).  It passes through a section of this ancient forest and has interpretive signage to explain its significance.

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!

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Trail icon
- Toronto Point:
Chautauqua Hills Trail (1.5, and 11.0 miles loops); Ancient Oaks Trail (1 mile)
- Woodson Cove: Overlook Trail (1.25 miles loop)
- Holiday Hills: Oak Ridge Trail (0.5 mile); Blackjack Ridge Trail (1 mile loop); .

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For more information on the Cross Timbers region, visit the web site of the Ancient Cross Timbers Project (from the University of Arkansas).

Toronto Lake map

Directions: Toronto Lake is in southeast Kansas about 80 miles east of Wichita, just off U.S. 54 highway between Eureka and Yates Center.  To reach the Cross Timbers State Park Office, go south 9 miles on K-105, through Toronto, to the west side of the dam (red dot).
To reach Toronto Wildlife Area drive south on the road west of the river.
Park permits, trail information, and a wildlife area map are available at the Cross Timbers State Park Office.

Location in Kansas

For a Google Map for this site, click here.

Ownership: Contact the US Army Corps of Engineers at (620) 658-4445 if you have questions about management of Toronto Lake.
2,800 surface acres (lake),
5,840 acres total
Click here to visit the US ACE Toronto Lake web page.
  Click the icon for the Corps map of the 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.
1,075 acres (parks), 4,700 acres (wildlife area)

Click here to visit the KDWPT web page for Cross Timbers State Park. 
You may download the KDWPT brochure on Cross Timbers State Park or email the Park Manager from the links at the top of that page.
The Toronto Wildlife Area brochure may be found here.

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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.

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Questions or comments about Natural Kansas may be directed to Jim Mason