graphicOutdoor recreation is key to the active lifestyle Labette County residents seek.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains one of the area's most popular attractions: Big Hill Lake. Here visitors take advantage of the camping, picnicking, sightseeing, swimming, boating, water-skiing, fishing, hiking and hunting the lake supports. Because it has one of the few sand beaches in Kansas, it draws people from near and far on sunny summer days.

Birdwatchers come to enjoy sightings of the lake's native migratory waterfowl, including the beautiful eastern bluebird. Boating enthusiasts are welcome to sail the calm waters. Trails surrounding the lake entice hikers and horseback riding fans. The one-mile Ruth Nixon Hiking Trail meanders along the lake's western shoreline, with plenty of rest areas to allow hikers to drink in the native rolling prairies.

The Big Hill Lake 17-mile horse trail encompasses three-fourths of the lake's shoreline. It includes tethering areas and three large turfed parking areas with limited facilities for overnight camping by trail riders.

Camping and picnicking facilities abound in five park areas equipped with electrical and primitive camping areas, group picnic shelters, sanitary facilities, potable water, boat launching ramps, playground, swimming beach, ball field and changing house. The lake also is teeming with largemouth bass, crappie, channel and flathead catfish, walleye, smallmouth bass, bluegill and other fish native to Southeast Kansas.

Outdoor enthusiasts also have discovered the fun of getting away from it all at Olson Lake outside Edna and Lake Parsons — a first-class fishing spot that also boasts a sand swimming beach and boat ramps. Chetopa has been declared the "Catfish Capital of Kansas," thanks to the Neosho River's dam located in that town. Here sportsmen seek the large paddlefish, or spoonbill, below the river dam.

But diehard fishermen flock to Labette County's strip pits: old mines that were dug, or "stripped," for coal. After the enormous strip mines were closed, the holes were filled with water and stocked with a variety of fish. "Pit" fishing gives an angler a unique experience because the waters in the pits are extremely clear. Trophy size catches of largemouth bass, channel catfish and various panfish reward anglers who succeed in these areas.

A hunter's paradise awaits those who want to try a bow or rifle. The area is awash in deer, turkey, dove, quail, duck, squirrel, rabbit, and coyote, each hunted in its own season. Several hunting lodges specialize in the sport of your choice.


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