The Prairie Dog State Park is one of Kansas’ most unique parks. While most of the nation’s state parks involve hills or mountains, this park’s main feature is a small rodent. Prairie dogs are similar to chipmunks and use a network of holes to burrow in. One of the largest and most heavily-populated prairie dog fields is located just a few miles past the park’s entrance. The main entrance is located along Highway 261, about four miles west of the town of Norton. It is difficult to miss the entrance, as it is marked with a large sign and enormous stone prairie dog statue.
After entering the park via the main entrance, the office will be seen within minutes, located on the left side of the road. Be sure to stop in the office and pick up a park permit. Located next to the main office of the park are two interesting historical structures – an old adobe house and a one-room schoolhouse. Built in the late 1890s, the adobe house was constructed on the site where it stands; it is the last remaining old adobe house in the state of Kansas. The schoolhouse was relocated from another site.
Beyond this point, the main road leads to the Keith Sebelius Reservoir, a large man-made lake. During the early 1990s, the reservoir had excessive floods and the water levels still remain high, although they lowered somewhat from the original flood levels. The floods left behind many sharp broken tree trunks in the water, so it is important to be careful when wading in unmarked areas. It is even more important to avoid swimming in areas that are not designated for it. Near the main campground area, there is a sanded beach with ropes marking the safe swimming area. Fishing is also allowed nearby and is very plentiful. This reservoir is full of Sunfish, Bluegill, Black Bullhead, White Crappie, Channel Catfish, Flathead Catfish, Saugeye, Spotted Bass, Largemouth Bass, Walleye and Wiper. Deeper areas of the lake are best for fishing, so those who bring boats will likely have the best luck.
The main campground is located near the beach and the main road. There are over 130 plain campsites scattered in the area, as well as 40 sites with water and electric hookups and 18 with electricity only. The Prairie Dog State Park has only one cabin, which must be reserved in advance. Campsites may also be reserved with advance notice. Modern showers are available, along with flushable toilets in an open-ceiling bathroom facility. Large sheltered picnic areas and campfire sites are found close to the bathroom. There is a small playground for children in the campground to enjoy. Two dump sites are on the premises in this area. A trail that is 1.4 miles long winds through the camping area and is an excellent place to view wildlife. Deer, rabbits, coyotes, squirrels and, of course, prairie dogs are commonly seen in this area. The roads pas the main campground become dirt after a short distance, but are easy to drive on. Following the road in a vehicle, ATV or motorcycle will result in arriving at the other side of the reservoir. There is a large dam on the other side. Just beyond the dam, the Prairie Dog Creek can be seen. Today the creek is very small and shallow, but nearly 100 years ago, it was called the Prairie Dog River and was used as a steamboat transportation route between Norton and nearby Almena.
Hunters traveling to the Prairie Dog State Park during hunting season will find ample hunting opportunities in the Norton Wildlife Area. Numerous amounts of white-tail and mule deer inhabit the 6,400-acre landscape. During pheasant season, it is also heavily populated by these fowl, providing one of the most fruitful pheasant hunting sites in the region. The park has several rules and regulations, one of which includes strict penalties for harm to the protected prairie dogs in the park. There are also rules about fires, fishing and personal conduct while on the premises. To obtain further information, contact the main office. Their contact information follows.
Prairie Dog State Park
13037 State Highway 261
Norton, Kansas 67654