Recently, over the summer, I journeyed to Lehigh-Portland Trails – our newest state park. Located right by Iola, this park is a literal five-minute drive from my grandparents’ house. With it being so close to them I naturally am quite familiar with it and enjoy visiting whenever I get the opportunity.
Nestled next to Lake Lehigh, a sparkling lake fashioned from a retired quarry, Lehigh-Portland is home to lots of different dirt and gravel trails crisscrossing around 360 acres of land. Many of these trails have a unique environment around them, with some taking you through deep woodland while others pass through prairie-like terrain. For such a small area, Lehigh-Portland is home to a truly diverse range of environments that are always fantastic to explore.
What keeps me coming back more than anything else though are the incredibly scenic views. Alongside the lake are nearly 30-ft cliffs that overlook the pristine, blue water below. Looking down from the cliffside and into the water, I was even able to see fish swimming around under the surface even as I stood around 40 ft above it. Running by some of the cliff sides are trails, making it a perfect spot for a scenic evening hike.
I’ve only seen a few places like this in the state, and not all of them are as accessible as Lehigh-Portland. A short 10-minute walk on either of the main gravel trails will take you to one of the prime overlooks of the lake. It’s a perfect place to take a great sunset picture or just to admire the scenic views. There’s also a picnic area at the scenic spot - a perfect place for enjoying company AND a view.
Sprinkled across the park are antiques and old ruins that reveal more about the history of the park and Kansas. The land the park sits on now was once home to a cement plant along with several homesteads. Today, the remains of these structures are visible in different areas around the park. One of these ruins I found most exciting was an old coal shoot that was used in the cement plant. While walking on a trail I also found an old boxcar sitting at the edge of a trail branch. You’ll find multiple foundations where buildings or fences once stood all across the park. People called this park their home in the past, and the legacies of their stories stand the test of time.
Ultimately, this park holds a special place in my heart. It’s an incredible place full of natural beauty, and it is located practically within my backyard. I will be back very soon, and I hope to see this place continue to be an adventurous environment for years to come.
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