Where to Go to Enjoy Time Outside in Trego County

Looking for something safe to do with your kids during this unexpected school closure and Spring Break? Trego County has many sites and landmarks that are great places to learn and play outdoors!

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Hiking and Fishing at Cedar Bluff State Park & Reservoir

Cedar Bluff State Park & Reservoir is continuing to rise and it’s currently at the highest point it’s been in years! State Park officials have turned on the water to the Despatch and Hoonii Campgrounds. The North bathhouse (located by the rental cabins) is open for public use.

Your child will be thrilled when they hook a fish at Pa’s Pond. Located in the Bluffton Area on the North Shore, this is a stocked pond with shade trees that are perfect for a picnic when the weather is nice.

The Cedar Bluff Office is closed to public access at this time and staff will be available by phone. We encourage everyone to use the HuntFish KS and Campit KS apps to purchase all your privileges and reservations prior to visiting the park.

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Let your kids run off extra energy at Cedar Bluff State Park’s 5-mile Agave Ridge Nature Trail. The first mile is paved and an easy walk for everyone. Interpretive signs of flora and fauna in the area. The next four miles is a mowed trail that leads to a beautiful view of the 100-ft. bluffs that gives the park its name. This is a more difficult trail for ambitious hikers. Spring is the perfect time to see the blooming flowers and playful animals enjoying the warm weather and this is a great trail to view them.

The Agave Ridge Trail is accessed through the Page Creek Area on the South Shore of Cedar Bluff State Park and is managed on Wildlife Area lands; vehicle permits are required to access the trail head.


NOTE: The bridge over the Cedar Bluff Reservoir spillway is currently under construction on K-147 until August 2020. The road is closed for 1.8 miles, but the rest of the highway is open to travelers. KDOT has created a 60-mile detour around the lake. For a shorter detour, take one of Trego County’s scenic country roads, such as TR CO U or X. Just Make sure road conditions are good, especially after wet weather.

To get to the North Shore: Access to all the north side landmarks can be reached as usual from I-70 at the Ogallah exit traveling south on K-147. (Emanuel Lutheran Church, the Bluffton Campground, Cedar Bluff State Park’s office, Threshing Machine Canyon, and the BOD Marker) 

To Get to the South Shore: Access the South Shore by traveling north on K-147 from Hwy 4 at Brownell. (Page Creek Campground, Agave Ridge Hiking Trail, and the Scenic Bluff Overlook)


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Paleontology on the Prairie

Science class is right under your feet at Castle Rock, the Badlands. Go fossil hunting for sharks’ teeth that date back millions of years to when the Great Inland Sea divided the North America continent in half.

Your kids can imagine the giant prehistoric fish that once lived in the rock’s nooks and crannies and swam right above their heads. The geological features of the Kansas prairie are also a perfect example of how water and wind affect rocks over millions of years.

A Wildlife Safari

Bring your binoculars with you to catch a glimpse of a few of our wild neighbors. White tail and mule deer, coyotes, jackrabbits, and a prairie songbirds, like meadowlarks and red winged blackbirds, fill our prairie. Early morning is the best time to see these animals but beware of rattlesnakes in the rocky areas where they may be sunning themselves.

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Smoky Valley Scenic Byway

The stories of our ancestors come to life at historical landmarks along the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway. Look for one of the Butterfield Overland Despatch (B.O.D.) limestone posts along Hwy. 147 south of Cedar Bluff State Park’s Bluffton Area. It’s just one several markers placed along the historic Smoky Hill Trail in the 1960s to map out the route early pioneers used to travel to the Colorado gold mines over 100 years ago.

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The Wilcox School

Visit one of the last remaining rural schoolhouses in Trego County, Wilcox School. It’s a great opportunity to point out how different students experienced school over a hundred years ago. To get to the school travel 15-miles south on Hwy. 283 south of WaKeeney. Several interpretive panels in the windows tell how the school was used 1886 to the present day and one panel will help you learn more about the native wildflowers found along the byway during the growing season.

Stop at the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway’s informational kiosks located along Hwy. 283 and WaKeeney’s Eisenhower Park at Exit 127 for more lessons on the history and environment of our county and city.

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History and Fun at WaKeeney’s City Parks

WaKeeney is home to great parks and playgrounds. Let them run free on the vast lawn of the Courthouse Square in Downtown WaKeeney.

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Plan a picnic at the Swimming Pool Park. With playground equipment for all ages and covered shelters, families can spend hours at the park without running out of things to do.

Eisenhower Park

City Landmarks

WaKeeney is home to several war memorials that illustrate America’s role in conflicts around the globe and the sacrifices made by the men and women of our military.

Iwo Jima Memorial

You’ll find the Iwo Jima Memorial at I-70’s east Exit #128, an F-14 jet at Eisenhower Park, a Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial at Courthouse Square, and the KansasVeteran’s Cemetery one mile north of the Iwo Jima memorial on Hwy. 283.

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 Time Out for Parents at Big Creek Golf Course

Spend time teach your kids the game of golf at Big Creek Golf Course. The nine-hole course is arolling prairie with native Buffalo grass fairways and lush, watered greens. With a yardage of 6251, a slope of 122 and a rating of 69.6, you’ll have the opportunity to send that ball sailing in an arc across the big, beautiful prairie sky.

More Ideas

There are even more ways to enjoy time outside in Trego County!

TJH Kay has put together a “Social Distancing Scavenger Hunt” for March 25-April 15. The “Pillars of Education” theme encourages the community to display things in their windows that correspond with the topic of the week. Kids can find them when they are out on walks and enter weekly to win the Family Prize Pack by texting (785) 769-3297 or posting a picture of your participation on KAY Sponsor Stacie Edgett Minson’s Facebook page. (Check out the flyer above for ideas to place in your window.)

Take your little ones on a “Bear Hunt” through town. Several of our citizens have placed teddy bears in the windows of their homes for kids to look for as they pass by. Check out the Facebook page dedicated to the event for more information.

Geocaching is a great way to explore the outdoors through a challenging game and give your kids a lesson about how to use coordinates to locate landmarks.

Anyone who’s attended TCHS knows the glory of “dragging Main,” so let’s crank up the tunes and do it again! Drag Main – WaKeeney! Let’s Do It Again! will be held Saturday, March 28that 8pm. There will be a box on the corner of First Federal for anyone who would like to donate non-perishable items to family food boxes. This is a repeat of an earlier event that saw great success, with over 70 cars and 124 canned goods and other items donated to our friends in need. Check out their Facebook page for more information.

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Family Memories

While it’s important to social distance ourselves at this time, you don’t have to stay indoors. Get out and make some memories with your kids! You’ll find many activities and learning opportunities right outside your door in Trego County.

 

The New Smoky Valley Scenic Byway’s Interpretive Signs Have Arrived in Trego County!

Dive deeper into the history and landscape of the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway at each of our recently installed interpretive panels! Each one tells the story of the historical markers and significant natural features that make our byway a Kansas state treasure.

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An Eight Year Project Becomes Reality

The Smoky Valley Scenic Byway allows travelers to explore the history and landscape of our Northwest Kansas region. They are part of a larger joint effort between several state and tourism agencies to provide more information at 39 tourist attractions on twelve routes located across the state.

In 2010, the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) received a $220,000 National Scenic Byway grant from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for development of the Kansas Byways Interpretive Plan. Using this funding, Fermata, Inc. of Austin, TX began collecting the historical information & developed the storylines for the project.

In 2015, RDG Planning and Design of Omaha, NE began the design phase and, once finished, general contractor GSR Construction, Inc. of Lawrence, KS started working on the construction of the project. WaKeeney’s Travel and Tourism Director Cathy Albert gathered the stories and images included on the panels and in November 2018 the finished panels were installed at points of interest along the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway.

Smoky Valley Scenic Byway Highway Sign

The Smoky Valley Scenic Byway 

Exploring the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway is now easier than ever! The 60-mile, U-shaped loop is one of the easiest routes included in the Kansas byways’ system. With starting points at either Exit 127 in WaKeeney or at Ogallah, Exit 135. If you begin your journey in WaKeeney, we recommend starting at the F-14 Jet in Eisenhower Park, where you’ll find three signs that tell the story of WaKeeney and Trego County.

Interpretive Sign, Eisenhower Park, F-14 Jet

Interpretive Sign, Eisenhower Park, F-14 Jet

Traveling Through the Smoky Valley

For over a hundred years people have been traveling through the Smoky Valley. Early trails brought settlers to our prairies and a few decades later the American love of the road got them out on the highways that followed those same routes.  In 1956, Kansas native President Dwight D. Eisenhower directed his engineers to route his massive interstate project through the Smoky Valley, and, today, I-70 brings people from all over the world to Trego County.

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Settling the Western Smoky Valley and the “Queen City of the High Plains”

Before WaKeeney was the “Christmas City of the High Plains” it wore the crown of a queen. Originally assigned the moniker of “Queen City of the High Plains,” WaKeeney began as a frontier town in 1878 and soon grew to be a center of trade in our county. All this information and much more is detailed on the panel entitled “Settling the Western Smoky Valley.”

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 “The Earth Provides Shelter and Beauty”

Ingenuity has always been a part of the history of the Smoky Valley. Evidence of this is found in the beautiful creamy-white limestone buildings that dot our landscape. Using rock cut from local quarries, our founding fathers created the churches, schools, and civic and government buildings that were the anchors of Trego County communities. Find out more about the sturdy construction and quality materials that were created by these innovative builders on the “Stone Buildings” interpretative panel.

 

Kiosk, 12 miles south of WaKeeney on Hwy 283

The Smoky Valley Scenic Byway 

The kiosk located 12-miles south of WaKeeney on Hwy. 283 features a double-sided informative panel. It features facts and images about the natural beauty you’ll find along the landscape, as well as a replica of a Butterfield Overland Despatch marker. The original markers helped to guide the earliest travelers along a pioneer trail. 

 

Interpretive Signs, Cedar Bluff Reservoir, South of Smoky Hill River Bridge

Cedar Bluff Reservoir and State Park

A favorite stop along the byway is Cedar Bluff Reservoir and State Park. The reservoir and its dam were constructed in 1949 by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to provide water for flood control, irrigation, and the region’s water supply, as well as for recreation. Throughout the decades it has become a natural wildlife reserve and popular playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Three interpretative panels placed in the parking area south of Smoky Hill River Bridge tell the story of Cedar Bluff and include a map of the many inlets where camping, fishing, and water sports are enjoyed.

SVSB Kiosk Attractions

The Smoky Valley Scenic Byway

Planning Your Trip on the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway

Take a trip on the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway and look for our new interpretive signs to learn more about Western Kansas and the history of Trego County!

If you begin your journey in WaKeeney we recommend starting at

  1. F-14 Jet in Eisenhower Park.
  2. Go South 12 miles on Hwy. 283 to the kiosk.
  3. Continue South 14 miles to Hwy. 4 at Ransom.
  4. Turn East and travel 9-miles on Hwy. 4 to Brownell.
  5. Travel North 10-miles on Hwy. 147 to Cedar Bluff Reservoir.
  6. Continue traveling North on Hwy. 147 for 16-miles to end at I-70 in Ogallah, Exit 135.

Each sign provides directions along the route where you can stop and enjoy the wonders of nature, historical sites, and geological wonders of the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway.

Halo, Mexican Food Lovers, It’s Cinco de Mayo in WaKeeney!

Tropical Mexican Restuarant

No need to go south of the border for a spicy treat—you can get a culinary kick right here in WaKeeney at the Tropical Mexican Restaurant, where the chefs prepare tasty appetizers, entree, and desserts that will have you feeling those cool tropical breezes right here on the Great Plains.

Tropical Mexican Restuarant

Construct a fajita from fresh vegetables and juicy steak, chicken or pork inside a warm tortilla with a side of refried beans and rice. These much-loved meals combine all the great tastes of the grill with the traditional spices of Mexican food.

Tropical Mexican Restuarant

Get the Cali-Mex version of Mexican food with a Monterey Fajita platter. It’s a heaping helping of healthy chicken breast, broccoli, carrots, zucchini, bell peppers and tomato, sprinkled with cheese and served next to Tropical’s signature beans and rice. This generous portion-sized meal will fill you up without stretching your calorie count for the day.

Tropical Mexican Restuarant

Don’t forget to order up a celebratory Margarita! Tropical Mexican Restaurant has a full bar, with a selection of wines, beers and well drinks. Try a Daiquiri, Pina Colada, or Tequila Sunrise, or one of their four Margaritas flavors—lime, strawberry, mango or peach.

Tropical Mexican Restaurant

You don’t have to book a ticket to Cancun to get authentic Mexican food. Just plan a visit to Western Kansas’s best Mexican restaurant, Tropical Mexican Restaurant, in WaKeeney, Kansas. Located at 428 S 1stSt., just one block north of I-70 Exit 127.

Experience Fall on the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway

Smoky Valley Scenic Byway

The Northwest Kansas prairie is beautiful in the fall and there is no better way to enjoy the beauty of the changing season than by touring the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway of Trego County.

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The Smoky Valley Byway is a sixty-mile route over gently rolling hills that takes you past stunning natural settings and historic landmarks, like the Emanuel Lutheran Church on South Hwy. 147, which is made of locally quarried limestone.

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As is the Wilcox country schoolhouse on South Hwy. 283 that is currently under restoration.

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Cedar Bluff State Park is a beautiful spot to stop and enjoy outdoor activities. Fishing, boating, and hiking are all accessible at the park. Along with many great spots on the reservoir, Pa’s Fishing Pond is a stocked pond created for children and the disabled to enjoy. If exploration is more your style give the hiking trails a try. The Agave Ridge Trail will take you deep into the park where you are sure to spot many kinds of wildlife. The trail leading down into Threshing Machine Canyon will take you right to the spot where pioneers traveling across the prairie carved their names and dates into the limestone cliff face.

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When you’re back on the Byway keep your eye out for the limestone posts marking the old route of the Butterfield Overland Despatch. These posts were added in 1960 to mark the historic trail that adventurers followed on stagecoaches from Atchison, Kansas to Denver, Colorado in 1865. The limestone blends in with the surrounding grasses in the fall, but the easiest marker to locate is found on Hwy. 147 south of the turn to the state park office on west side of highway below Cedar Bluff’s dam.

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As you cruise on down the road you’ll notice the stark white limestone cliffs that reveal our prairie’s prehistoric life as the floor of a great inland seabed. Professional and amateur paleontologist regularly uncover fossils in the exposed cliffs, including animals dating as far back as the Cretaceous period.

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Don’t forget to look for the many species of wildlife that fill our Great Plains as you’re driving. Trego County is known for its great deer and pheasant hunting. (Hunters—mark your calendar for the start of the 2017 Pheasant Season next month on November 11th.)

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One of the most beautiful things to see on the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway are the amazing sunrises and sunsets that paint our skies every day. Experience an unparalleled connection with nature and “share our sky of wonder” with us.

This fall plan a drive along the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway and experience the history and natural beauty of Trego County.

The Trego County Recreation Center Hosts Two Great Events in April

Get out your calendars because WaKeeney will really be hopping this month, with great community-sponsored events!

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Spring has sprung, and that means the Easter Bunny will soon be delivering his beautiful eggs to our kids at the Annual Easter Egg Hunt in Downtown WaKeeney!


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The hunt begins this Saturday, April 15th at 10:30am at the Trego County Courthouse Square with five different age groups taking turns searching the grounds for those colorful, candy-filled eggs our kids crave. The event is open to all kids, with groups of toddlers to two year olds, threes and fours, five and six year olds, ages seven and eight and nine and ten year olds taking turns searching the grounds. Bring your own basket or bag and stick around after the eggs have all been found to receive additional prizes, including a gift certificate for a free ice cream cone from our local McDonalds.

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Come out on Saturday, April 22nd to meet with the doctors, nurses and staff from Trego County Lemke Memorial Hospital and the WaKeeney and Ellis Family Care Centers when they present the Health Fair 2017.

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Hosted by the Trego County Recreation Commission, this event is aimed at promoting a healthy, active lifestyle. Many areas of health will be represented; counseling, blood pressure checks and massage therapy, stress, weight, skin and chiropractic screenings, and cholesterol and diabetes testing (be sure to fast for twelve hours prior for the best chance at a good reading). You will also have a chance to uncover your “Health Age.” This will provide you with an overview of how your health measures up according to others in your age group.

The Trego Lemke Memorial Hospital’s “Health Fair 2017” will run from 8am to 11am on Saturday, April 22nd at the Trego County Recreation Commission office at 512 Caroline Avenue You can find out more by calling the hospital or either the WaKeeney or Ellis clinics.

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Eisenhower Park and the F-14 Fighter Jet of Trego County

Trego - Eisenhower3.jpgAs anyone who loves history knows, Kansas native Dwight D. Eisenhower was a celebrated World War II general prior to becoming the 34th president of the United States. His list of achievements is long, indeed. As Supreme Commander, he led American soldiers on D-Day and as president he sponsored and signed the Civil Rights Bill and connected the entire country via the interstate highway system.

Following the old Highway 40 on its parallel path with the Butterfield Overland Trail, highway planners developed a route that would bring travelers right past WaKeeney. Today, as travelers exit I-70 at WaKeeney’s west exit, Exit 127, they’ll find themselves at the entrance to our city’s beautiful memorial to the man behind the highway, Eisenhower Park.

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The park hugs the southern edge of WaKeeney and is easily accessed via a paved driveway that marks the borders of the park. There’s plenty of space for your pets to explore and kids will be able to stretch their legs after enjoying lunch at one of the many covered picnic tables.

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In 2006, a retired Navy F-14 Tomcat Fighter Jet was added to the park to represent the many military men and women who have fought for this country. The Tomcat, at 62-feet and 40,000 pounds, was dismantled in Ohio and packed onto two trucks (the wings, tailpiece, and flight controls in one, the fuselage on another), which took up nearly two full lanes of the highway.

When the jet arrived in town a team of four retired military men from Virginia rebuilt the jet right in the center of Downtown WaKeeney and many people stopped by to see their work in progress. After it was completed the Tomcat was towed to its’ permanent home in Eisenhower Park, where it can be seen by everyone.

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Today, when you pull off of Exit 127 in WaKeeney, you are able to visit this monument to the military in a park that memorializes one of our country’s greatest commanders.

Wreaths Across America Honors Our Brave at the Kansas Veterans’ Cemetery

Honoring the veterans interred at the Kansas Veterans’ Cemetery in WaKeeney has become a proud tradition for our city during the holiday season, and this year we are proud to once again take part in the annual Wreaths Across America’s worldwide event to honor those who’ve sacrificed so much.

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Throughout the ten years since the cemetery has participated in Wreaths Across America it’s been a moving experience for all who’ve attended or been involved in the event It’s provided us a moment of reflection on the great achievements of our servicemen and women, as well as the tremendous sacrifices they, and their families make in order for us to have an all-volunteer army fighting for our freedom.

army

We are honored again this holiday season to be able to recognize members of all five branches of the service—Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and the Coast Guard—as well as the Merchant Marines, and those POW/MIA status. Wreaths made especially for this event were purchased through local donations collected by the Kansas Veterans’ Cemetery in WaKeeney and the WaKeeney VFW from the same supplier to Arlington National Cemetery, the Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington, Maine. They began the tradition in 1992 and continue to head up the project year after year.

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A short service will also be held during the ceremony, with Errol Wuertz of the Civil Air Corp. and Rev. Stanton presiding, followed by a 21-gun salute performed by the Hays VFW Honor Guard as attendees lay wreaths at the gravesite. For those families unable to attend the event, the American Legion Riders and Knights of Columbus will fill in, so no veteran goes unrecognized.

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Please join us at the Kansas Veterans’ Cemetery in WaKeeney at 11am on Saturday, December 17th for the 11th Annual Wreaths Across America ceremony, to “Remember, Honor, Teach” the value of freedom to our young.

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Spend the Dog Days of Summer at Cedar Bluff State Park

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The sound of waves and a cool breeze—that’s how I like to ride out the last days of summer. Immersed in the great outdoors that will soon be taking its warm embrace south as cold from the North ushers in the Fall.

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One of the best places to enjoy the “dog days of summer” is Trego County’s own Cedar Bluff State Park, where the Smoky Hill River fills up the reservoir and the north and south shores offer boating, camping, trails, and watersports for all your outdoor enthusiasts.

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Bluffton Area – The North Shore Park

Explore Cedar Bluff’s north shore that borders Bluffton Area park, a 350 acre camper’s delight. Areas are set up for group and solo campers, with bathroom facilities nearby.

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Campsites set up for RV camping and cabins are available to rent, or go “old-school” and pitch a tent under the famous Kansas night sky. Shower facilities are on-site so you can choose your style of “roughin’ it” and there are boat ramps, so bring your jet skis, boats and fishing gear. Sandy beaches, basketball courts and trails for biking and hiking are nearby if you want to enjoy some time on solid land, too.

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History buffs will want to visit Threshing Machine Canyon found on the north shore. Originally known as Bluffton Station on the Butterfield Overland Despatch, the station was the site of a Native American attack in 1867 that ended in the deaths of all the men and a fire that destroyed a threshing machine they were delivering to Brigham Young in Salt Lake City. Look for names of other pioneers carved into the canyon’s limestone bluffs dating all the way back to the mid-1800s.

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Page Creek Area – The South Shore Park

The Page Creek Area found on the south shore is a favorite among outdoor enthusiasts, offering more primitive campsites and excellent opportunities for hooking “the one” you’ll be bragging about later. Located near Cedar Bluff’s gorgeous limestone cliffs, Page Creek Area has beautiful views and a quieter camping existence. Wildlife abounds and shade trees offer peaceful places to relax and enjoy the last warm weeks of the year.

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Don’t forget to check out Agave Trail on the south side of the park for a hike out to the bluffs. The five-mile trail (one mile paved) is an excellent chance for spectacular wildlife sightings and dusk is a great time to watch the sun cast a rainbow of colors upon the white limestone bluffs.

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Don’t let your summer weekends slip away without a trip to Cedar Bluff State Park, Trego County’s natural playground!

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