Kanopolis State Park near Marquette, Kan. | There’s a boat ramp in Horsethief Canyon. Just no water.
In an ordinary summer, Kanopolis Lake would come up to Rick Martin’s armpits where he now stands, in the dry weeds that stretch well beyond the end of said boat ramp. The water would lap 30 feet up the slant where a warning, “Life Jacket Zone,” is painted on the concrete.
But the edge of the water is 200 yards away, so feel free to leave that life jacket in Martin’s truck.
Martin is the park manager here. As the water has receded about six feet below normal this time of year, he has watched boat ramps become non-functional, one by one.
Elsewhere around the reservoir, a few operational ramps allow anglers to shove off and go after still-plentiful stocks of walleye, catfish and bass. Yet if the drought continues, the lakeside could be pulling away from those places, too, within a few weeks — at which point park workers are prepared to assemble temporary docks out of World War II-era strips for landing aircraft.
The reservoir is shrinking for at least two reasons: The flow of the incoming Smoky Hill River is down to a trickle, and communities downstream from the dam need more water released to them to combat drought conditions and sustain drinking supplies.
Staring out from the boat ramp onto the expanse of two-foot-high weeds and sand, Ranger Rick says: “It’s not like a bathtub with a spigot you can turn to fill it back up.”
|Rick Montgomery, firstname.lastname@example.org.