Imagine watching migrating swans in February and paddling your canoe among blooming lily pads a few months later. Within half an hour of downtown Kansas City. How can that be possible? Are we dreaming? No, we’re at WyCo. Wyandotte County Lake that is. Nestled alongside the Missouri River, this lake attracts an amazing array of migrating waterfowl. In the past two months we’ve seen swans, geese (snow and Canada) and a broad range of puddle and diving ducks. A few weeks ago we even saw brandt (a type of goose mostly seen on the coasts). And of course many bald eagles lingering at the lake watching for a fresh goose meal.
The proximity of the Missouri River no doubt drives the migratory significance of the lake for such a diverse range of wildfowl – with the kind of diversity you would expect at Cheyenne Bottoms, not on the edge of Kansas City. (Or with recent expansion of Kansas City, Kansas, not even on the edge). The photo of snow geese above WAS taken at WyCo Lake! The red-winged blackbirds have arrived now, reminding us that spring is almost here. And when summer comes, water lilies fill much of the south end of the lake. Paddling through them is breathtaking. How many area residents even know they are there? The fishing at the lake is great, the water is clear (for a Kansas lake) and the shoreline is a perfect mix of brush, logs and rocks.
The lake supports good populations of bass, crappie, perch and catfish, and is stocked with trout each spring. Access is also excellent with a perimeter road (about a 7 mile circuit). If you want to jog it, expect a beautiful run, but with some significant hills! The same hills we have to thank for the rugged shoreline and deep water of the lake. Some hard core trail runners use the rugged and hilly ground around the lake too. Their annual trail running event? The Psycho WyCo of course!
For those of you familiar with Lone Star Lake -one of our other favorite Northeast Kansas lakes – WyCo has a common provenance – it was started as a WPA (Works Progress Administration) project during the depression. A collapse of the partially completed dam in 1937 set things back for the lake, and it wasn’t finished until 1942. WyCo Lake is about as far from an “urban lake” as you can imagine. While it does attract good crowds on nice days, there is a lot of shoreline and water to share. Overnight camping is not allowed, but virtually the whole perimeter of the lake affords a multiple of spots to hang a hammock and read or fish. And most days paddling traffic is surprisingly light. Unfortunately, that is partly the result of a somewhat inconvenient county permitting requirement for all boats (with or without a motor) – available only in person at a few locations.
Fishing permits (both state and county) are also required if you want to fish – even if it’s catch and release. Frankly, would like to see those fees and burden
reduced, especially for paddlers, but that is a battle for another day.
If you have not seen WyCo Lake, next time you head to Kansas City take 20 minutes and give it a visit. If you’re driving from our store in Lawrence, it's just north and west of the I-70 / I-435 junction. You can find a map of the lake here. When you visit, you will be surprised and delighted!
Wade On In, Friends!