Clinton State Park, KS

clinton-state-park-ks1Clinton State Park, sometimes also called Clinton Lake State Park, is located just east of Topeka, Kansas. The park sits on 1,500 acres of land along the north side of Clinton reservoir, and has a varied landscape of open fields and hardwood forests. There are 23 miles of trails to hike and bike on, and 383 campsites in two different campgrounds, 214 of which have hookups for RVs. As of this post, it costs $16.50 a night for an electric and water site (there are no just electric), and $2 more a night if you want a 50 amp hookup, and there is also a flat $3 transaction fee, whether you stay one night or fourteen. I’d say about 20% of the sites can be reserved in advance, but the majority are first come first served. On top of this fee, there is a charge of $4.50 a day per vehicle for entry to the park, unless you have the Kansas State Park annual pass. It also looks like my travel trailer was charged an entry fee of $0.50 a day. My total cost for staying at Clinton for three nights was $67.50.


clinton-state-park-ks2It being the middle of the week and after prime camping season has ended, finding a site a site is not difficult. In fact, there are almost too many to choose from.

I cruise through campground 3 first, having missed the turnoff for campground 1. Where campground 2 is, I have no idea. Between 1 and 3 sits a day use picnic area and the beach (which is closed for the season), but there is no sign for a campground 2. I wonder if the staff may have done this intentionally on a lark to make an already large and confusing camping area more confusing.

None of the sites are anywhere near the water, but my absolute favorite is #154 in Campground 3. This is a Prime site, meaning it has a 50 amp hookup and thus is $2 more than a regular hookup site, it’s also so large that I’m pretty sure I could fit three Cas’ and Berthas (the majority of the RV sites can fit a 40′ rig easy), although there wouldn’t be much space to walk between them. It’s located at the end of the farthest loop from from entry road, and all of the sites at this far end have just a glimpse of water through the trees. They’re surrounded by majestic oaks and also have access points to the two main trails right from their backyards, although the woods behind the sites are dense enough and the trails far enough back that you won’t be bothered by people on them.

clinton-state-park-ks3I’m too cheap to pay the extra $2 though, so I end up in site 228, also in Campground 3 which has woods behind it, but isn’t surrounded by trees – I think I’ve missed them this summer. Many of the sites are very open and get a lot of sun. Some are like mine, and border the woods on one side, but aren’t really in the trees. A few have a tree or two around the site, which provides partial shade during the day. Most of the sites that are truly wooded are primitive sites.

The RV sites are all gravel, the levelness varies between them. Mine was very level side to side, but sloped off in the back, so I had to leave my front hitch very low to make the RV level. After getting unhitched it was close to 2:30 pm, still plenty of day left to explore!

I moseyed on over to the day picnic area first. It has two covered pavilions located a respectable distance from each other, each with it’s own swing set. A note: the swing sets are large enough for adults to enjoy. I figured in the spirit of thoroughness it was important for me to test this, ahem. There is also a connector to the two main trails from here, I’ll definitely need to come back for hiking fun later.

clinton-state-park-ks4After that, I drive down to the end of the line. Past Campground 3, the road curves around and ends at the boat launch, a very large parking lot that is very empty looking.

Clinton Lake is pretty big, and if the signs are any indication there is some pretty good fishing to be found here. I enjoy the sunlight playing over the waves and a gentle breeze moving past early fall color. There’s only one other car parked down here, and they’re no where in sight. But there are other matters I need to attend to today, a drive in to Lawrence to put up a blog post and catch up on online stuff.

Just as predicted on that last post, I do get lost in the campground trying to find my site – yes, the place really is that big. Twice I drive around the loop and get alarmed when I don’t see Cas. At the end of the second pass I stop and turn on a light to peek at the map. Turns out I’m in the wrong loop, whoops. Once I find the right loop, spotting my RV is easy. I feel pretty sheepish, luckily no one is sitting outside to witness my nighttime scenic tour of the campground.


It’s a late start this morning as I pull up the blind over Cas’ large rear window and enjoy the wooded view from my bed as morning sunlight filters through the leaves. Ahh, now this is the life.

The rest of the morning is spent reading and watching the view from my site while my little electric heater plugs away, and thinking about going out and hooking up my water to test if my plumbing is still okay after going through freezing temps up in the Badlands. The high today is in the low fifties, so there isn’t much drive for me to get out.

Eventually I drag my butt outside and get my water hose and filter out of the back of Bertha. I hook everything up on the RV end and discover that I’m inches short of being able to reach the water spigot, which is located on the other side of the electric box, poop. Well I’m sure as heck not going to re-hitch just for that, it’s my vacation after all, so I resign myself to testing it at the next campground, wherever that ends up being.

clinton-state-park-ks6About half of the bathrooms here have flush toilets, the other half are pit toilets, fortunately I’m closest to the former. Campground 3 also looks like it has three shower houses, but only the one near the entrance is open, probably due to the late season. After the failed water hook-up attempt, I take a walk around the campground and take note of these things, and also get some sample pictures of the various sites.

I wave and say ‘hi’ to a few people who are out and about, but the majority of the campground is quiet. I poke my head inside the shower house that is open and see something I anticipated and yet dreaded – there is only one water knob in the shower stalls, and it’s marked cold. Tomorrow’s high is 70, so I’ll take my shower then, and it’ll be as quick as possible.

Back at the ranch…err, site 228, I hop inside Bertha and drive back down to the picnic area to get on the trails. The map shows that not too far from here is Henry Lake, only 1.1 miles away, seems like as good a destination as any.

clinton-state-park-ks7The 23 miles of trail at Clinton are mostly in two trails that run parallel to the lake shore and each other, the blue trail being closer to the water on more level ground and the white trail being higher up on less even ground, the difference in elevation between the campground and the lake shore is 80 feet. Both trails are heavily wooded. I take the white trail to Henry lake, besides there being a lot of up and down it’s also very rocky. According to the brochure it’s also a mountain biking trail but I’m not sure how people on bikes could get past some of these rock obstacles.

Henry Lake is… not what I expected. It’s man-made, mowed around, accessible by road, and quite scummy looking – the water levels are low. It’s not the most picturesque place, but the trail leading to it was so I don’t count the experience as a waste. A flock of Canadian geese fly overhead in V formation as I’m leaving the lake, I imagine even though I don’t find it to be all that attractive I bet the wildlife enjoy it, so it’s good that it’s there.

After the quick hike, it’s back to the RV for more reading and then to Lawrence that evening again for more catching up.


Today I drive down to the day use area, outside of the campground complex down a different road entirely.

It’s got another couple pavilions, a big playground area, and another swimming beach which is again closed. It also has the trail head to Saunders mound, a hillock on the shores of Clinton Lake that gives you a good view of the reservoir.

Unlike the wooded hiking of yesterday, this trail is mostly through fields of grass, some of which is taller than I am. Grasshoppers are out in abundance along this trail, hopping and gliding out of my way as I approach and making the familiar chirping noises out of sight. There is a tall bush or short tree that grows in this area too, I’ve seen it in grassy areas of Wisconsin and up in South Dakota as well. It’s got spade shaped leaves that come off on either side of a stem, and gets maybe up to 6 feet tall at max. Most of the year it blends in with everything else, but in the fall the leaves turn bright red, a beautiful contrast to the golden grass.

clinton-state-park-ks9The view from the top of Saunders mound is well worth the climb. There’s a bench up there where one can get an almost 360 degree view. I sit down on it for a while and enjoy my good fortune, it’s another one of those ‘I could be working a real job right now, but instead I’m out here doing this‘ moments.

From the top of the mound you can climb down to the water’s edge, but the trail is steep, especially near where the higher water marks for the lake are. I spy a makeshift seating area made with driftwood circling a campfire that people have made along the edge of the water. The waves are smaller than they were on Tuesday, there is less wind today. I meander along the lake shore for a while, it’s a mix of sand and small stones, then turn around and retrace my steps back to Bertha.

After that I return to the White and Blue trails, getting on them this time from an access point near my campsite. I hike down to what the map calls crooked bridge, and sure enough, it’s a crooked bridge. By now it’s nearing 70 and very pleasant out with a few puffy clouds gracing the sky. A squirrel chatters angrily at me from a nearby tree for invading it’s space. Leaves that changed early bring some color to the forest floor, it’s a beautiful day. And that means there’s one other thing I need to make sure I get done before it gets too late.

Back at the campground, I eye the shower with trepidation. Even at 70, it’s still chilly to be wearing flip-flops, this isn’t going to be pleasant. I start sponge bathing, and notice that the water really isn’t as cold as I’d feared, maybe this won’t be so bad after all. The water continues to warm, to the point where it’s actually comfortable. The showers do have hot water! Hallelujah.


The forecast calls for rain later this morning, so I go to bed and wake up early, hoping to get hitched up before it starts. Just as I’m pulling up to the park office to check out, the rain starts, do I have good timing or what?

As you all know, I don’t give number ratings to the parks I stay at, I do a thumbs up or thumbs down. Clinton State Park sits on a diverse piece of Kansas wilderness, it’s got a lake, prairie, and woods. The wildlife is plentiful, besides squirrels and geese I saw white tailed deer and turkeys during my stay. The sites are spacious and relatively level, and you’re guaranteed a water hookup if you can find an electric one. It encourages outdoor activities with multiple sheltered picnic areas, a large boat ramp, two swimming beaches, 23 miles of hiking and biking trails, and a large playground. All in all, Clinton gets a thumbs up from me.

I’m on the road by 10:30 and head south on 75 again, quickly leaving the rain behind. I’d picked up brochures for three different state parks south of here, closer to Coffeyville, my final destination. The first is Crawford to the SE which I rule out because it’s described as being on the edge of the Ozarks, which I already got a good taste of last fall in Missouri. I’m looking for a true Kansas experience. El Dorado is to the SW of here, it’s the largest state park in Kansas with over 1,000 campsite in four different campgrounds located around a lake. After the largeness of Clinton I think I’d rather choose a smaller park this time, so I’m driving toward Elk City, which is almost due S of here. It’s going to be about a three hour drive for me towing Cas, that’s not too bad at all.


* * *

I made it safely to Elk City State Park, more to come! To clear up a cliffhanger though, I just wanted to say quickly that it was the place in Florida that got back to me first and I accepted; although Texas sent me an offer too the very next day. I still need to fill out a background release form and a couple other things for the Florida one before I officially have it, I’ll be writing more about that soon as well. Have a good weekend everyone!

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36 Responses to Clinton State Park, KS

  1. Dave October 18, 2013 at 11:24 pm #

    Congrats on the Florida Winter job. We live just above Clearwater, and last winter when we were there I wore long pants like three, maybe four days….all other days was strictly short pants. Great temps if you are near the Gulf…inland gets colder, but after the Badlands cold it will be a breeze. Look forward to learning more…and I guess you did not suffer any plumbing problems from the big snow storm before you left South Dakota. –Dave
    Dave recently posted..Feather River AutumnMy Profile

    • Becky October 19, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

      I’m going to be north-centralish, just west of Gainesville, more to come.

      And yes I finally got around to testing my plumbing today, I kept an eye on the fittings at the city water inlet, both sinks, my hot water heater, and toilet – I don’t see any trace of moisture at any of these joints after three hours of staying hooked up and keeping a close eye on them, so I’m going to guess all is well.

      Enjoy your Florida winter, I’ll be joining the party in January. 😉

  2. Rob October 18, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

    The site we stayed at in Clinton SP was right next to stairs going down to the lake, it was a big lake.
    The single shower knob I used there brought water that was ‘just right’, I did have to check it because with just one pipe i expected the worse.

    • Becky October 19, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

      Haha, yeah Rob that single shower knob had me sure it was going to be cold and miserable. It was so nice having a hot shower. Your site doesn’t sound too familiar to me, but then again maybe it was in Campground 1 which I only saw briefly that first day I arrived.

  3. John Hussey October 19, 2013 at 6:44 am #

    I am in central Florida on the Atlantic side, retired, and wear short pants, flip flops, tee shirts the year around. The fall, winter, spring is great down here, we might even have an hour or so of “colder winter” from time to time. But, I’ll still wear the same clothes, just pull on a thin sweat shirt.

    • Becky October 19, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

      I’ll be just west of Gainesville. Even if it’s colder than where you are it’ll still be warmer than Bluffton I’d imagine. I’m looking forward to the gig, it’s definitely not a standard kind of thing. 😉

  4. Dawn October 19, 2013 at 7:28 am #

    Enjoy your weekend too! Though I suppose weekend doesn’t have the same meaning when you’re on vacation! 🙂 Glad you have a job lined up. Can’t wait to see the new park!

    • Becky October 19, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

      Haha, every day is on the weekend when you’re on vacation. 😉 I love Elk City park, even more than Clinton. Less hiking trails but the park itself is just in a beautiful spot. Can’t wait to show you all more.

  5. MarciaGB October 19, 2013 at 8:52 am #

    Good news about your Winter job! We spend Jan thru March in FL, mostly on the Gulf coast. We love FL state parks!

    • Becky October 19, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

      Looks like I’ll have no shortage of RVers to meet up with this winter, if the comments I’m getting are any indication. 😀

      I won’t be at a state park, but it is a large wilderness area. I’ve learned from the literature I’ve received from the guy who hired me that there are four different species of venomous snakes to be found down there, yay?

  6. Carolyn October 19, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    I don’t comment often, but I continue to enjoy reading your blog about your rving experience. Looking forward to more.

    Safe travels.

    • Becky October 19, 2013 at 8:58 pm #

      Thank you for writing in and I’m glad to hear that you’re enjoying it Carolyn. 🙂 Safe travels and happy trails to you too.

  7. Kim October 19, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    Safe travels. I know you are enjoying your vacation! Maybe we’ll meet up in Florida. Thinking about visiting the eyeglasses this winter.

    • Becky October 19, 2013 at 8:59 pm #

      Oooo, that’s be nice Kim! I’ll be writing more about where I’ll be soonish, people visiting me might be hard, probably will be easier for me to visit you.

  8. Reine October 19, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    Congrats on already having a job lined up for after Amazon. I’m guessing that you have some vacation in between jobs. I know the Amazon gig will be much less stressful this year since you already know the ropes and you have the next job already lined up.

    Every lifestyle has it’s quirks and you’re learning to manage the ones in your full timing lifestyle.

    • Becky October 19, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

      Looks like I’ll have about two weeks between Amazon and Florida gig, I’m not sure if I’ll be treating that time like a vacation or not, depends on what the money situation looks like. Right now having worked in the Badlands for the past almost six months I had enough to justify a ‘vacation’. 😛

  9. Tom October 19, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

    I enjoy your postings. Your descriptions and pictures are great. Good luck with your journey.

    • Becky October 19, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

      Thank you Tom, and thank you for reading!

  10. Skyquest October 19, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

    Hi Becky
    You might already have this link, but in case you do not, here is a handy place to look for campgrounds with photos of each site. Can you believe someone is actually photographing every RV site in every park around the USA!

    • Becky October 22, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

      Wow, that is a pretty impressive feat Skyquest. 🙂

  11. cozygirl October 19, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

    Is give it a thumbs too…hot shower swayed me :). Hopeful water lookup wears well…fish guessing not only you was glad to be back out on the road .) FL…Woohoo hoping to catch up in the SW but glad you landed a gig! We take off soon…what a long three weeks. C
    cozygirl recently posted..Not traveling…but caregiving!My Profile

    • Becky October 22, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

      Congrats for getting back on the road Carla! You both must be very excited. Yeah I have other plans in motion for this summer that require me to be in the SE, but I’m really looking forward to exploring Arizona some winter soon. 🙂

  12. John of Sinbad and I on the Loose October 19, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    A fun read which I had to laugh (at your expense) at losing your campsite. Its happened to me before. “I know I’m around here somewhere…I think”. I have yet to explore Florida (it is a bit of a poke from California) but want to, so will be looking forward to your time there. You are close to one of a few Little House on the Prairie sites just south of Independence on 75. Laura Ingalls lived there for a short time. The original home no longer stands but a recreation was built. There is a relocated school house plus another farm house of the later land owners who had no idea that LIW once lived on the property. Free admission, donations gladly accepted. Worth the detour I felt. Great post.
    John of Sinbad and I on the Loose recently posted..The SummitMy Profile

    • Becky October 22, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

      It’s the first time I’ve lost my campsite, I felt more than a little silly. I think in a 383 site campground though it’s excusable, isn’t it?

      I didn’t have a chance to stop by that site while I was in Elk City but here in Coffeyville I’m not too far from it either so I’ll go take a peek at some point. 🙂

  13. Pleinguy October 19, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

    Great that you got a gig for this winter in Florida. I used to live in the area you will be working in. So, if you have any questions feel free to email me. I will be in the southwest this winter. Sorry to miss you. Take care.
    Pleinguy recently posted..The LoungeMy Profile

    • Becky October 22, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

      Yeah not too far from your hometown of Jacksonville Plein. We keep missing each other, but I’m sure one day soon our paths will cross. Have fun in the SW!

  14. Tim Ikert October 19, 2013 at 11:09 pm #

    I am sitting at a campground in Pardeeville Wisconsin enjoying your site. I have been a long time reader and enjoy your adventures. I wish I could have done this when I was younger, I often dreamed about it but never acted on it. We have been in every of the lower 48 states with our two daughters and enjoy rving whenever we can. My youngest will be off to college next year and I look forward to retirement and traveling in the next few years.

    • Becky October 22, 2013 at 7:54 pm #

      Hiya Tim, thank you for commenting. I have a lot of catching up to do! Eventually I want to get to all 50 states (don’t think I’ll make it to Hawaii in the RV though, hah) but I haven’t even started counting because I know I have such a long ways to go. Congrats on your impending retirement, it’s nice to travel when I have the energy to do everything I want to, but having enough money to be able to travel and not have to work is nice too.

  15. Evelyn B October 20, 2013 at 7:43 am #

    Hi Becky: There have been several people who have left Big Chief due to the doubling up issue. You might want to call them and ask if you would be required to do so. If they say yes, I’ve heard there are a number of sites still open at Walter Johnson City Park in Coffeyville with full hook ups. You have to go past the first camping area, past the baseball fields to the full hook-up area. Good luck and we’ll probably see you soon.

    • Becky October 22, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

      Heya Evelyn, thanks for the heads up. I ended up calling Big Chief ahead of time, and figured things out. Yes, I am doubled up but I still have full hookups and for me having a shower house is very important as I don’t trust my hot water heater, my site neighbors are good people.

      If the phone call I got last Friday is to be believed I’ll be 6th shift ICQA, but I won’t put my stock in anything 100% until I show up to orientation on Thursday. Hopefully I’ll get to meet up with you and Kevin at some point! I’m in site A2 I think, first row second spot in.

  16. Mike K October 20, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

    I look forward to your posts every week. What an adventure! I spent 3 of the best years of my life in Independence, KS with much boating and camping at nearby Elk City Lake. Don’t miss the huge Halloween festival this week in Independence called “Neewollah”. It’s a very unique Kansas experience.

    • Becky October 22, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

      Haha, I stumbled into Neewollah actually when I was going to McDonalds to post this. I saw the signs hanging up over the streets and was all “what the heck is this?”. There was a tour thing going on at what I would consider the City Hall, but I dunno if that’s what the building was actually called. They had a spot light out front and everything.

  17. Gary October 21, 2013 at 3:43 am #

    Glad you got to stay at Clinton State Park Becky. Its a beautiful lake. I caught a 34 lb flathead catfish there on rod and reel last year. Of course I was living in Lawrence then. Now I’m south of Topeka about 30 miles in Burlingame, Ks. Wish I could’ve got to see you there. Happy travels wherever the road leads you !!!

    • Becky October 22, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

      It was a really nice park Gary, thanks for the tip!

  18. Jean in Southaven, MS October 21, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    I have been following your blg since it went on on So glad you are ok after South Dakota. Be safe

    • Becky October 22, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

      So far so good Jean, thanks for commenting.

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