With fall in full swing, people in search of weekend plans can turn to outdoor recreational facilities around Manhattan, including Tuttle Creek State Park and Fort Riley. These areas offer outdoor recreational activities such as fishing, hiking and shooting, among other unique opportunities.
“There are a number of good things that go on in the winter and fall,” said Todd Lovin, park manager at Tuttle Creek State Park. “A couple that are popular right now are a rifle range that is open on the first and third weekends of the month and an archery range that is open during daylight hours.”
Tuttle Creek State Park features approximately 1,200 acres of recreation land open to the public for fishing, boating, camping, hiking and various other activities year-round. The park is made up of four units: River Pond, Spillway, Fancy Creek and Randolph. Each of the areas offers recreation activities for visitors.
“We have a mountain bike trail that is 6.5 miles long and that is really popular this time of the year. We also have trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding,” Lovin said.
For those who wish to stay overnight in the chilly fall air, the park offers approximately 500 primitive campsites and a limited number of campsites with running water and electricity. The park offers almost a dozen cabins for nightly rentals.
“We have nine cabins right now, but will have 11 open very soon,” Lovin said. “A lot of people like to get a cabin to get away for the weekend.”
The price for a cabin varies between $55 to $85 per night depending on the season and night of the week, Lovin said. Each cabin includes a kitchen, full bathroom, heating, air conditioning and other amenities.
Many of the campsites and cabins are full during fall weekends when the K-State football team plays at home. For the Oklahoma State game on Oct. 29, Tuttle Creek campsites were about 70 percent full, an almost unheard of, but logical, occurrence, Lovin said.
“We’re only three or four miles away from the stadium,” Lovin said. “Camping fits with football really good — a camp fire, tailgating — it’s all really family oriented. It fits for us really good.”
Even when there isn’t a home K-State football game, visitors can use the disc golf course and dog park at Tuttle Creek. The park reservoir is also open.
“Of course, fishing is always going to be good, still,” Lovin said.
While hunting is not allowed on Tuttle Creek grounds, there is a 12,000 square foot wildlife area around the state reserve that can be hunted on.
Sarah Schrag, sophomore in kinesiology and sister of the editor-in-chief, said she plans on taking advantage of Tuttle Creek recreation opportunities.
“I would really like to go to Tuttle Creek,” Schrag said. “I haven’t been yet, but that’s something I would like to do.”
While new to Manhattan area recreation, Schrag has wildlife experience. She recently shot her first deer on a hunting trip in Kingman, Kan.
“I shot a deer last Saturday night,” Schrag said. “It was my second time out, but my first time getting a deer.”
Schrag downed an eight-point buck with her bow and arrow.
“My dad has really inspired me. He’s been into hunting since I was little and he surprised me with a bow for my birthday,” Schrag said. “I just kind of went with it.”
Schrag is open to further hunting opportunities closer to Manhattan, too.
“I got my hunter’s safety certificate about a month ago through the Manhattan wildlife,” Schrag said. “I would like to explore more around here, too.”
Admission into Tuttle Creek is approximately $4 per vehicle, depending on the time of year. Many of the recreational options are included in the vehicle admission cost. Annual vehicle passes are also available. Camping permits are required and available for between $7 and $9 a night. There are additional charges for RVs, campsites with utilities and the rifle range. For a complete list of costs and permit options, visit the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism website at kdwpt.state.ks.us.
Outdoorsmen and women once again have the opportunity to recreate at Fort Riley this fall. However, what will change is the registration process. The base is in the process of phasing out the current handwritten system in favor of the electronic iSportsman program.
“The plan right now is to change over to iSportsman on Jan. 1. If people have registered with iSportsman already, they can keep their ID. Each year, they will be asked to renew it on Feb. 1, after most of the hunting seasons are over and not a lot of fishermen are out,” said Shawn Stratton, supervisory fish and wildlife biologist, conservation branch, environmental division, Directorate of Public Works. “Anyone who hasn’t registered will just need to before the first time they go to the field.”
The online system allows recreationists to check in and out when they visit the Fort Riley recreation area. The system can be accessed through any personal device with Internet access. To access the recreational areas, users can check in and check out on a daily basis using any personal device with Internet access. A kiosk, located at 1st Division Road and Vinton School Road, is available 24 hours a day for people to check in and out. Patrons may also check in and out at the environmental division office located in at 407 Pershing Court during normal business hours.
After checking in, patrons have the opportunity to use hunting, fishing, hiking, canoeing and other recreation areas. All Fort Riley rules and regulations must be followed at all times.
For all areas, the iSportsman system will be a helpful addition, Stratton aid.
“The system is going to help in a number of ways,” Stratton said. “It will help the management from the fish and wildlife aspect because we will get better data and it will help us keep the public up to date with changes that are occurring.”
In addition to saving users time and energy, the new systems allows Fort Riley management to be aware of who is recreating on the installment and alert them if a situation arises.
“Each training mission is always number one,” Stratton said. “If there is an incident that happens on the installation, we will know who is out there and can notify them. We will know who we are looking for. We weren’t able to do that before.”
This element of safety was something the program was designed to provide users, said Joe Daigneau, program manager at iSportsman.
“It allows management to know who is recreating on the installation, so if they aren’t off by the evening, they can go look or them or try to contact them to make sure they are safe,” Daigneau said. “It can let individuals know about where it is safe and where things are closed so they don’t get into an area where there is live fire, which is a big issue at a lot of installations.”
With the iSportsman program, recreationists can stay informed by checking the Fort Riley website at www.fortriley.isportsman.net, especially for long-term changes or policy updates.
“[The website] will be a way for us to keep the sportsmen up to date with everything that is going on with the installation that they need to be aware of,” Stratton said. “We’ve been able to put some reports on there that we weren’t able to before. They used to have to come into our office to get hard copies of different things.”
All previous Fort Riley recreation rules must be followed. For more information, contact the Environmental Division at Fort Riley at 785-239-6211 or visit www.fortriley.isportsman.net
To register with the iSportsman program, log on to www.fortriley.isportsman.net and enter basic contact information. Users will register a unique user ID and receive a password and personal identification number.