State parks expect high turnout over Memorial Day weekend

Dena Cox of Norwich watches her daughter Paisley, 2, pour a cup of tea while camping at Cheney State Park.
Dena Cox of Norwich watches her daughter Paisley, 2, pour a cup of tea while camping at Cheney State Park. The Wichita Eagle

Despite the recent rainy weather and soggy campgrounds, Cheney and El Dorado state parks are expecting around 85,000 visitors this weekend.

Kathy Pritchett, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism grants coordinator, said the rain has made it hard to keep up with mowing, but that the park sites are as ready as they can be and campsites are filling up quickly.

“If (people) expect a utility site, they had better try to make their reservations … now because most utility sites are already reserved,” Pritchett said. “There’s a few walk-up sites available, but we expect them to be filled up (soon).”

Cheney State Park

Officials at Cheney State Park are expecting 35,000 visitors over Memorial Day weekend, according to Ryan Stucky, the park’s regional supervisor.

Stucky said the park’s electrical and utility sites have already been reserved, but hundreds of primitive campsites are still open. He said all accessible areas of the park will be open to visitors.

“We are open and everything is ready to go, and we have several primitive campsites still available,” Stucky said.

Snyder’s Marina, which served Cheney State Park, is still closed, so people will not be able to store boats in the marina, Stucky said. Because the marina is closed and there are no operating gas pumps, Stucky said people will need to get gas, ice and other items they need in Cheney.

Stucky said he does not yet know when the marina will reopen. He said the park is taking bids from people looking to operate it.

“We’re still working through (the bidding) process, so we really don’t know exactly what will be here, but there will be a marina here as soon as we can,” Stucky said.

Safety and courtesy are the two biggest things Stucky said park visitors should be aware of over the holiday weekend.

“Be courteous to your neighbors, and be safe,” Stucky said. “If you’re going to be on the water, make sure you wear a lifejacket.”

El Dorado State Park

Tyler Burt, El Dorado State Park ranger, said the park is a little soggy from the recent rains, but all available areas will be accessible.

Burt said an average of 50,000 people usually visit El Dorado State park over Memorial Day weekend, and he is looking for that many visitors again. He said most campsites have already been reserved.

To prepare for its summer kickoff, Shady Creek Marina’s owner, Mike Morgan, said the marina replaced the wood and bumpers on its fuel dock over the winter. He said the marina’s grill will operate over the weekend, and he is hoping for good, warm weather so that people are able to get their boats out.

“If the weather stays nice, we’ll have a good turnout, camping and boating,” Morgan said. “People are getting their boats out for the first time.”

Morgan said the rain and stormy weather has had an impact on the lake’s temperature but not its water levels, which he said “are great.”

“The water is a little chilly,” Morgan said.

Burt advises park attendees to remain alert of the weather conditions.

“Be safe and have a fun weekend,” Burt said. “Keep your eye on the weather because I know they are calling for some rain.”

The National Weather Service is calling for highs in the low 80s and lows in the 60s over the weekend. There is a 40 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms on Friday, a 20 percent chance on Saturday and a 30 percent chance on both Sunday and Monday.

Pritchett, the state parks official, said there will be heavy traffic in the parks throughout the state, so people should be safe and mindful of children running around.

“Everybody needs to be safe on the water and around campfires and watch for vehicles,” Pritchett said. “That way the holiday weekend is not going to be marred by tragedy.”

Morgan Bell: 316-268-6514

Reserve a campsite

Go to www.reserveamerica.com or kansasoutdoors.com, or call the park offices:

Cheney: 316-542-3664

El Dorado: 316-321-7180

Water levels

To monitor the water levels at Cheney State Park, visit www.swt-wc.usace.army.mil/CHEN.lakepage.html.

To monitor the water levels at El Dorado State Park, visit www.swt-wc.usace.army.mil/ELDR.lakepage.html.

State park prices

Daily vehicle permit: $5 ($6 if purchased via Internet)

Seniors/disabled daily vehicle: $3.25

Annual vehicle permit: $25

Seniors/disabled annual vehicle: $13.75

Daily camping fee: $8

14-day camping permit: $101.50

Annual camping permit: $202.50

Daily trail permit: $3.50

Annual trail permit: $12.50

State park weekend events

▪ Devils Ditch Renegades Mountain Man Rendevous/Black Powder Shoot

When: Friday-Monday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Location: Cheney Shooting Range

▪ Friends of Tuttle Creek State Park camper breakfast

When: Saturday, 9 to 11 a.m.

Location: Tuttle Creek State Park, Man Kan shelter

▪ Bluestem Bait Shop grand opening

When: Sunday through Monday, opens at 6 a.m.

Location: El Dorado State Park