Ghost trails: 5 trails that have disappeared

Lake Atwood trail starts with such promise... Photo by Mark Conard

Lake Atwood trail starts with such promise… Photo by Mark Conard

A good guidebook should highlight the best of what’s out there.  However, it’s also important to know where not to go.  There’s nothing more disappointing than planning a trip and finding out that a trail is no longer used or is in poor condition.  We’ve done the work for you for the upcoming book, so you won’t end up on a trail that once was or isn’t anymore.

We would say rest in peace, but if we’re honest, we’d much rather these trails make a comeback with some loving care and, let’s face it, an infusion of cash.  Without further ado, here is our requiem to the “ghost trails” of Kansas:

1. Kingman State Fishing Lake / Byron Walker Wildlife Area – This hike was featured in the “Hiking Guide to Kansas” and is still listed online, and according to all descriptions seemed like it would be a great short hike.  It probably would have been a great hike. If it actually still existed.  Apparently trees fell across the trail during a large storm and it has never been cleared and rebuilt.  A few short years later there are few traces that it had ever existed.

2. Clark State Fishing Lake – Jay Wood Memorial Trail – After driving through the open croplands of western Kansas, the abrupt transition to the striking panorama of the steep canyonlands surrounding Clark State Fishing Lake is nothing short of breath-taking.  The excitement that was building to explore the  rugged terrain quickly dissipated when a park worker informed us that the trail bridge located shortly after the start of the trail had washed out and not been replaced.  The only remaining trace of the trail is a few steps in the banks leading down towards the stream where the bridge once stood.

This is what the bridge looked like before it washed out. . .  Photo by Jim Mason

This is what the bridge looked like before it washed out. . .
Photo by Jim Mason

Although there are no current plans to replace the trail, the spectacular scenery (and fishing possibilities!) makes this lake worth seeing. Just don’t expect to be able to go on the memorial trail.

3. Hayden Nature Trail at Lake Atwood – With great promise, this trail starts out wide and covered carefully in wood chips. Past a large observation tower that looks out over the currently dry lake bed, the trail hits the highway and peters out into nothing. It may have been a project started when the lake was being resealed in the mid 2000s and never finished.

4. Cimarron National Grassland – The eastern portion of the Turkey Trail – Between the Cottonwood Picnic Area and the Cimarron Campground, the trail is wide and easy south of the Cimarron River. Through stands of cottonwoods, it’s a mostly exposed trail that’s also open to ATVs along with mountain bikers and hikers. Once you get to the east side of Cimarron Campground, the trail fades. This is likely because east of the campground, the trail is off limits to ATVs. The end of the trail is one mile east of County Road 16, and since the terrain is relatively flat and treeless, you could probably make it to that end point from the campground, but it won’t be on a well-defined, easy to follow trail.

5. Honorable mention – Crawford State Fishing Lake – Drywood Creek Trail – This one is kind of there in spots, and it has enormous potential and it isn’t quite dead yet. It circumnavigates the lake, and dips in and out of the trees. Along the west side of the lake, the “trail” is the road along lake front cabins, and on the north side of the dam and on the east side of the lake, with washed out sections and fallen trees, the trail is hard to follow. At one point, I found myself trying to lift fallen trees myself to make sure I was mapping the “real” trail, but I realized that there was no way I’d want to recommend that particular route to anyone without some major cleanup.

Do you have fond memories of any of these trails? Have we gotten any of them wrong – have there been any improvements or updates to any of them? Let us know in the comments.

Kansas trails you can’t access with the government shutdown

We’re not here to get into politics, but we want to keep Kansas trail lovers updated on the current situation as to how it applies to them. Most of the trails in Kansas are on state, city, or private property, but there are some federally controlled sites.

So while the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism is state-run and the state parks are open for business during the government shutdown, there are a few places in the state that you can’t get to right now.

A flock of Red-winged Blackbirds flying into the sunset. Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cimarron National Grassland
Two major trails pass through the Cimarron National Grassland, a region reclaimed by the government after the disastrous Dust Bowl years: the Turkey Trail and the Companion Trail, so named because it runs parallel to or occasionally on the path of the historic Santa Fe Trail.Both trails will be included in the upcoming book and the region will be one of our top historic trails.

Quivira National Wildlife Refuge
While the birds pay no mind to government shutdowns and are flying through the area on the fall migration, the shorter, family trails in the refuge are not currently open. This region will be included in the book as one of our top wildlife/wildflower trails.

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
A total of 41 miles of hiking trails cross one of the nation’s only remaining stretches of original, native tallgrass prairie. A few of the best of the trails will be mapped out in our book as featured trails, and all additional trails will be mentioned.