Camping Cross Timbers State Park in Kansas
Camp Kansas: We’re talking with Kimberly Jones today. She is the park manager for Cross Timbers State Park in Kansas. How’s it going today, Kimberly?
Kimberly: We have a lot of rain today, but we actually needed it.
Camp Kansas: We finally got some up here in Minnesota a couple days ago, and we had about two, three weeks in a row of some pretty rough drought up here too. So how long has Cross Timbers State Park been around?
Kimberly: The Corp of Engineers actually completed the dam in 1961, so we’ve already celebrated a 50th anniversary. The park itself began in 1962. At that time, it was the Kansas Park Authority, and over the years we’ve changed names a couple times. But we’ve been around for a little over 50 years.
Camp Kansas: What are some of the most popular activities there in the park?
Kimberly: Cross Timbers, of course they feature any kind of water activity that folks would want to be involved in – everything from fishing for crappie or white bass or catfish to we have a Blue Water Trail, and we are the first Blue Water Trail in the state of Kansas, and we actually offer kayaks and canoes to our guests free of charge. The first loop is a one-hour paddle up a cove that’s protected from all the winds, and we are currently working on our second leg of the canoe kayak trail, and that will be for folks that have their own boats to bring.
We also have 15 miles of hiking trails. One of the most popular is Chautauqua Hills, and it’s anywhere from 1 ½ to 11 miles, and there’s four different loops that they can take. They can even backpack in and camp on three different campsites. Another favorite is the Ancient Tree Trail. It’s a one-mile interpretive hike that talks about the cross timbers ecosystem. It’s pretty unique in Kansas to have an ancient forest that literally our trees are 300 to 400 years old. We have some of the oldest growth trees west of the Mississippi.
The other one I like to talk about is the Overlook. It’s my personal favorite. We’re known for our bryophytes, which are lichens and mosses, and we have one of the best collections of those, actually, in the state of Kansas on the Overlook trail.
Camp Kansas: Wow. That sounds great. It sounds like you have a lot happening there.
Kimberly: We do.
Camp Kansas: Tell me a little bit about the campground.
Kimberly: We have 165 campsites; 76 are utility, 89 are primitive. We also offer four rustic log cabins, so for the folks that don’t want to rough it quite as much, they can stay in one of the cabins.
Camp Kansas: Any group sites there?
Kimberly: We do. We have a primitive group area as well as a utility campground for groups. Both of them have shelters available with them, and they can rent those by the half or the full area as a group use area.
Camp Kansas: If I were staying there for the weekend and wanted to venture out of the park for an afternoon, what are some of the most popular activities in that area?
Kimberly: We’ve got some local businesses that do some things like horseback riding and canoe floats down the Fall River. If you’re wanting outdoor adventure stuff, of course, there’s lots of – we’re getting ready to have a garage sale that goes up and down Highway 99, which is kind of unique maybe. They can actually travel over 100 miles, and every town they come along on that route actually will have garage and yard sales on them.
Camp Kansas: That’s right up my alley. I love garage sale-ing.
Kimberly: Kind of a unique thing.
Camp Kansas: Yeah. Two more questions for you. If you could spend just one hour in Cross Timbers State Park, what would you do with your time?
Kimberly: I would hike the Ancient Tree Trail.
Camp Kansas: And if you could spend just one night in Cross Timbers State Park, which specific campsite would you choose and why?
Kimberly: I would probably stay on Site 52 – that’s in our primitive campground – because it has a sunset view up the river itself, and it’s just a fantastic spot because it’s by itself, and it’s very popular. People fight over that campsite, and I think it’s a great place to be.