and State Park
Kansas’ oldest recreation area, Kanopolis State Park
includes more than 11,000 acres of rolling hills, bluffs, and woods, as well as
the 3,400 acre Kanopolis Reservoir. Managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
the lake not only provides the benefits of flood control and numerous recreation
opportunities, the area is also rich in Kansas history.
Long before the lake was
Smoky Hill River
Valley served as a lifeline for its inhabitants for many centuries. Many
millions of years ago Kansas was
covered with a warm shallow sea, which left behind limestone and Dakota
sandstone deposits from aquatic life, as well as many sea creature fossils and
sharks teeth as evidence. Prehistoric wildlife such as wooly mammoths and
mastodons migrated the upper reaches of the river valley along with varieties of
vegetarian dinosaurs. More notable travelers of pronghorn antelope, elk, and
bison moved with the changing seasons and often frequented the river valley.
American tribes of
Kiowa followed the game trails for centuries and camped within the
deep sandstone canyons and along the
Smoky Hill River, leaving rock art, known
as petroglyphs as pictorial evidence of their tribal lifestyles.
The first introduction of European explorers to the river valley was documented
in 1541 as the Spanish Conquistador's led by
Francisco Vasquez de
in their search for gold in the seven cities of Cibola. Native American rock art depicted trade with the Spanish by the introduction of
decorated horse and mule into tribal lifestyle. The French followed suit with
explorers of the Trans-Mississippi West from the 1700's to the early 1800's,
trapping to the tribes, and blocking Spanish influence.
Rush and the Homestead Act increased westward expansion of
Europeans through the river valley during the mid 1800's. The