When researching this exact spot I kept looking at satellite images because the whole area almost looked a little too nice to be free. As you can see in the satellite photo below, the surrounds of the lake are full of very mature trees even though it’s in the southern plains of Kansas. I just couldn’t come to grips with the idea that this could somehow be free even though it clearly wasn’t lacking any luster. However, the reviews of the location that I could find online were the one sobering fact that maybe it’s not as nice as it looks in sat. imagery.
When traveling to Woodson Lake, we never once expected this spot to look anything like how it looked in the above photo, everything we drove past was far too dead and dry to look that green and beautiful. (bear in mind we were here in southern Kansas’ late summer/early fall) Keeping the reviews we read in the backs of our minds we continued heading towards the spot down a long dusty gravel road with a few abandoned houses along it. It wasn’t until we finally arrived that I understood what we were getting into!
It was getting very clear why the reviews painted this lake in a very bad light. The lake was drained probably a dozen or so feet lower than its intended level, this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing but it exposed all the fish cribs that lined the bottom of what was once a shallow spot in the lake. A lot of cribs were made of PVC pipes and anchored into place properly but they also got very creative and recycled old tractor tires to be used as fish cribs, however, when the water doesn’t cover them all up it appears that the whole lake is left in disarray with overgrown weeds, trashy tires, and random PVC structures strewn across the banks. According to a bulletin posted at the lake the water was drained for dam repairs required after a particularly rainy year previous.
Driving across the dam road was a cool experience, gazing on each uniquely laid stone pillar along the way, once we got to the other side we saw some of the recent updates they had added, the photo below is their new emergency overflow drain. If the water gets too high they have some massive water pumps that spray it across a section of road and into the start of the emergency drain, the drain appears to lead into an empty ravine but I couldn’t figure out where the water would go after that.
We decided to drive around the whole lake and check out the spots, the cell service was weak so we were fairly picky about where we wanted to park since we were going to be here for at least a week. There was quite the variety of spots along the lakeside, some were very wooded and wouldn’t have been good for solar, most were not living up to our needs of cellular coverage for work, so when we got to a parking lot perched on what appeared to be the tallest hill around we stopped and tried out the coverage. We decided it would do, definitely not perfect, our Verizon phones had MAYBE 1 bar of LTE, just enough signal to access the internet but definitely not at a very fast speed.
So we definitely didn’t stay in an “official” site but we had maintenance crews and local law enforcement come by and were totally okay with where we parked, in fact, one local sheriff stopped so he could take pictures of our setup with our solar panels up to send to his brother. He made me believe that this area doesn’t receive a lot of RVers and when they have in the past, RVers have abused the facilities. We wanted to make sure we were careful stewards of the free land and made sure we brought all our trash to the free dumpsters on site, we collected water at the potable water source located at the dump station that’s also available on the lake. All-in-all we could have easily stayed here for an unlimited amount of time with them having water and dump. Of course like most free campsites we stay at there was a 14 day limit that we didn’t hit because we needed a major grocery run.
If you bring a larger rig here make sure you’re mindful of the weight limit bridge located on the East side of the lake. The bridge has an 8 ton limit for a dual axle truck/RV and I don’t know about anyone else, but we’re technically just over that limit I believe. The road around the lake is a full loop so if you scout properly (we did not) you shouldn’t need to even cross the bridge at all with your rig.
On our last day here I noticed that something like Poison Oak or Poison Ivy gave me one crazy rash on my leg, I wasn’t very happy about it and it took WEEKS to finally clear up. Also, when I was up on the roof I was getting swarmed by black wasps which are known to have one of the more painful stings of wasps in North America. So yeah.. we may come back, or maybe we’ll go somewhere that doesn’t try to kill us…
Milo joined me around the lake for a ride to capture all the photos you see above, he was a very good boy and has to make it into all our blog posts so here he is: