Wet & wild

Lake goers boat, jet ski on area waters

Written by Kristen Baker

With the nearest saltwater beach about 700 miles south of Wichita, area water lovers seek out lakes to satisfy their wet and wild sides.

Whether it is boating, water skiing, fishing or simply relaxing, Wichitans have quite a few lake choices within an hour's drive of the city. Increasingly popular are the neighborhood communities built on area water sources, so people can enjoy lake life in their backyards.

Regardless of which lake people choose to visit, Marine World, 7979 W. Kellogg Dr., offers a selection of recreational boats and watercrafts. Nick Blasi owns Marine World with his brother, Nathan Blasi. "Lake goers are looking to reduce stress without having to travel very far," Nick said. "They're taking advantage of the hot weather to have fun and promote great family time."

Marine World carries Mastercraft and Malibu wakeboard and surf boats, Bennington Pontoon boats and Sea-Doo watercrafts. The store employs water sport experts to help customers with the best selection.

Below, Splurge! has compiled information about some of the area's closest lakes.

Cheney Reservoir

Sue and Bill Coffman purchased their first sailboat years ago, and they always have sailed at Cheney Reservoir in Cheney State Park. Cheney State Park is located 20 miles straight west of Wichita in Kingman and Reno counties.

"We chose Cheney because it's considered a very good sailing lake," Sue Coffman said. "They have races called regatta where people come in from out of the area to race. Cheney almost always has wind."

Sue grew up sailing, and she introduced her husband to it. When their three children were young, the family of five enjoyed spending time on the sailboat, sailing, relaxing and even sleeping overnight.

"We spent a lot more time talking to one another and sharing with one another on the boat," Sue said. "We weren't watching TV; once you pulled in there by the lake, you left all the hassles of life behind you."

Sue said Cheney has been the perfect place to keep a boat for her family. She spoke highly about the lake's facilities, including a full-service marina and the Ninnescah Sailing Association's Afterdeck Activity Center that features a kitchen and a wrap-around observation deck. The Coffmans have met many friends sailing.

Cheney State Park also offers fishing and campsite facilities and nature trails.

El Dorado Lake

Whether it's hiking, camping or boating weekenders seek, El Dorado State Park offers the gamut of outdoor fun.

El Dorado natives Sara and Josh Potter own a 22-foot ski boat, and they take their grade-school-aged son to the lake about once a week during warmer weather.

"There is something for so many people," Sara Potter said. "We're boat people we unload and rarely go to shore but others camp, fish, jet ski, kayak, walk the paths, shoot bows and this year will be able to visit the gun range"

Located 30 miles northeast of Wichita, El Dorado State Park's lake offers 8,000 acres of water with 98 miles of shoreline. Campers have their pick of 1,100 camp-sites and 10 cabins for rent. With the full service marina and sailboat marina, adventurers have access to as many amenities as they choose.

The Potters recommend the marina's cheeseburgers, fries and breakfasts, although being away from the stresses of everyday life probably trumps the food as their favorite aspect of lake life.

"It's just a place to relax and unwind for us," Sara said. "We're together, and we have fun on the tubes, swimming and just floating. It's kinda like having our own little island."

Lake Afton Park

For those looking for a taste of lake life even closer to home, Lake Afton Park owned and operated by Sedgwick County is on the outskirts of Goddard west of Wichita.

Park Superintendent Mark Sroufe said due to its proximity to the city, Lake Afton draws recreation seekers on weeknights who want a place to boat or ski without the driving distances.

"Our location is a big drawing factor," Sroufe said. A smaller lake, Lake Afton sits on 720 acres, including 210 electrical campsites. "Camping has always been good here," Sroufe said. "People want to get away from the city."

This season, Lake Afton Park celebrates its 75th anniversary, and the Lake Afton Bait Shop will offer snack and drink specials. In celebration, on the weekend of June 3-4 the lake offers a free visit day where no recreational permits will be required.

"Many different personalities come out here," Sroufe said. "My favorite part of my job is the people. It's all about the people."

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