Douglas County residents with a yen for water sports, camping, hiking or hunting don't have to travel far for a taste of the great outdoors. Two nearby U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes, Clinton and Perry lakes, provide just the ticket for outdoor fun.
Clinton Lake, located four miles southwest of Lawrence, stretches eight miles up the Wakarusa Valley offering boaters about 7,000 surface acres of water.
Six parks along the shoreline, operated by the corps and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, offer camping sites, playing fields, fishing platforms, trails for hiking, mountain biking or horseback riding, picnic areas, beaches, and 450 acres of "primitive camping" for those who prefer roughing it to camping on designated pads.
More than 9,000 acres of public hunting lands also are available at Clinton Lake.
THE STATE also thinks Clinton has the potential to be more. A 1991 feasibility report by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks singled out Clinton Lake as presenting "the most significant development opportunities" in the state for a vacation-resort complex. The report, which also said Clinton has excellent potential as a conference site, envisioned a three-phase, $45.85 million project that would include three hotels and three conference-education centers. The report recommended a mix of public and private monies for such a project.
However, the report has languished since its release last summer.
Judy Billings, director of the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the report was commissioned by the administration of former Gov. Mike Hayden, and hasn't received much attention from Gov. Joan Finney's office.
Something that has been getting attention at Clinton is the lake's bald eagle population.
The majestic birds have picked Clinton as a nesting site and the hatching of baby eagles has become an annual attraction at the lake.
The latest pair of eaglets, the fourth family raised at the nest, hatched in mid-March, said Jackie Wedel, park ranger.
SPECTATORS with binoculars can observe the birds from a public viewing area across the water from the nesting site.
Other programs and activities offered at the lake include interpretive programs on Saturday nights, running from Memorial Day through Labor Day, free nature programs for school children both at the lake and in the classroom, and a water safety festival June 7 at Bloomington Beach, said Wedel.
New to the lake this year is a lake information radio channel. Wedel said visitors can tune in to 1610 AM within 2 miles of the lake 24 hours a day for a recorded update on lake conditions and upcoming programs. The lake visitors' center also boasts a new exhibit featuring bald eagles and ducks, she said.
Mark Retonde, owner of the Clinton Marina, said business has remained steady for the last several years. "We don't have many up or down years," he said.
The marina store opens from mid-March to Nov. 1, and boaters don't waste any time getting out to the lake, Retonde said.
Not much new is planned for the coming year, but the marina will again host activities planned by the local yacht club, he said. The second annual Teddy Bear Regatta, a benefit for Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., also will be held in June.
THE SECOND Corps of Engineers reservoir that's a short drive from Lawrence is Perry Lake in Jefferson County.
The lake, 15 miles northwest of Lawrence, offers visitors 160 miles of shoreline and 10 developed parks operated by the corps and the state. Picnic shelters, a group camping area, two marinas, and trails for hiking, motorcycling, horseback riding, and all-terrain vehicle riding are available. Other recreational facilities include campgrounds, swimming beaches, boat ramps, and courtesy docks.
Dennis Archer, park manager, said the corps will open a renovated park this summer. Longview Park will offer campers electricity pedestals, designated level pads, picnic tables and grills, he said. A gate attendent will monitor activity at the park.
The corps also schedules water safety programs, fishing tournaments, and "rap with the ranger" campfire programs during the outdoor recreation season, Archer said.
Clinton and Perry project staff will conduct visitor use surveys this summer, Wedel and Archer said.
RANGERS WILL ask visitors to the lakes to complete a brief questionnaire on how long they stayed at the lake, which activities they engaged in, and what interests they have regarding opportunities at the lake. Results should be available by the end of the year, Wedel said.
Other area lakes available for public use are Lone Star Lake, 12 miles southwest of Lawrence; the Douglas County State Lake, just north of Baldwin; the Leavenworth County State Lake, just northwest of Tonganoxie; and Pomona Lake, about 25 miles southwest of Lawrence.