My family and I recently discovered an awesome nature trail at Cheney Lake. I couldn’t wait to tell you about it and show you all the pictures and video clips I took while we were there.
Notice from the KWPT website: “Kansas state parks, fishing lakes and wildlife areas are currently open to the public. Help us keep these areas open by practicing social distancing and avoiding gathering in groups.”
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We were camping at one of the nearby campgrounds one weekend and decided to explore a little bit more by taking the nature trail we had seen signs for.
The Spring Creek day use area is directly across from the Smarsh Creek campground in the West Shore area of Cheney Lake State Park. We saw a small parking area and the sign for the Spring Creek nature trail along the main road through the park.
We had no idea what awaited us.
Video: Spring Creek Nature Trail – Cheney Lake
Here’s my “live stream” video, ha ha. (Note: at the time we visited this nature trail, the whole world was talking about Zoom calls and events that were held online via live stream videos.)
Spring Creek Nature Trail
The trail begins fairly typically with trees on one side of the path and a big grassy field on the other. While it was a pleasant enough walk there wasn’t much to see (yet!). But then we spied a dirt path off to the left and we knew we needed to turn there!
When we encountered the bridge we thought it was neat, but what we didn’t realize is that it’s actually the beginning of a long boardwalk that would lead us through a beaver dam area – a fantastic wooded area flowing with moving water and wildlife.
The boardwalk took a few turns and eventually we caught a view of the lake and a sandy beach area. We saw what looked like beavers’ handiwork in several different places. Looking over the rail we spotted a small catfish following a turtle in the water, and a school of minnows hanging out in a sunny spot in the shallows.
You could also hear bird calls, although none of us are well-versed enough in ornithology to know what we were hearing. These calls, along with the sound of a breeze through the cottonwood trees, insects chirping, and the streams rushing below us made it a lively, surround-sound experience. We were inclined to speak in hushed tones to each other rather than full voice so as not to intrude on the peacefulness of the atmosphere.
Sandy Beach at Cheney Lake
As we continued walking, we eventually left the boardwalk and turned onto a dirt path toward the lake. This took us to a rare (for Kansas) sandy beach area. Quite a bit of the shoreline in the West Shore area of Cheney Lake is sandy, but this was… extra sandy.
We left the way we came, but we saw people entering from another direction, so we assume there is another entrance in the Spring Creek day use area. Our plan is to visit again and walk even further along the trails to see what we can see.
Now we need to go exploring some of the other nature trails around Wichita! We’ve already been to Swanson, Chisholm Trail, and Pawnee Prairie parks in Wichita. Those are amazing as well, mostly paved and perfect if you don’t want to venture too far from home. There’s also a really nice paved walk through Sedgwick County Park and the area by the river near the Keeper of the Plains is well-paved too. The Pracht Wetlands Park is surprisingly alive with cute little critters like muskrats and birds and that’s a nice area to walk too.
See Where to Walk in Wichita for more ideas.
More Information About the Trail:
Cheney Lake State Park has three trails, according to its website. One is the Spring Creek Wildlife Observation Trail that we took, and there’s Giefer Creek Nature Trail that’s on the other end of the West Shore. I haven’t found the other one yet. (You can discover it!)
About the Trail:
Less than a mile long
Beware of poison ivy; most of the trail was well-maintained when we went and we didn’t encounter areas where we had to brush up against any leaves, but the poison ivy is out there.
Bikes are allowed
Kansas State Parks charge a $5 entrance fee per vehicle (not per person). We buy the Kansas State Parks Passport every year when we renew our tags and that gets us in for free.
How to Get There:
Cheney State Park is directly west of Wichita. You can get to the West Shore Area by traveling west on W. 21st Street or, if you’re on the east side of town you can take Kellogg all the way to 391st Street/KS-291. Turn north on 391st until you get to 21st Street, then turn left (west) until you see the Cheney West Shore entrance. (The entrance is on 21st Street, directly across from a place called West Side Bait Shop & Beer.)
Once in the park, you turn left onto the main road and the nature trail is just about half-mile further, on the right-hand side of the road.
For More Information:
- Cheney State Park phone number: (316) 542-3664
- Kansas State Parks website: Download a pdf brochure here about the types of flora and fauna you can expect to see at Spring Creek Wildlife Observation Area and Interpretive Trail
- KSOutdoors.com The website for Kansas Wildlife, Parks & Tourism. Information on all of Kansas’ state parks, national refuges in Kansas, wildlife, outdoor activities in Kansas, and more.
- Main page for Cheney State Park on the KDWPT website
- Cheney Reservoir page on the NaturalKansas.org website