Kite Aerial Photography
Lake Kahola, Kansas

James S. and Susan W. Aber

Lake Kahola is a small water-supply and recreational lake located in the Flint Hills of east-central Kansas. The dam and reservoir were constructed in the 1930s to serve as a water source for the nearby city of Emporia. The name Kahola is derived from an Indian word meaning "spring water," and many springs feed the lake from adjacent bedrock bluffs. The lake is fed also by surface runoff--Kahola Creek, which drains a relatively undeveloped prairie grassland. This results in naturally good water quality (Schroeder 1990). As a result of ground-water recharge, the lake is resistant to short-term drought and the water remains relatively cool. It freezes over completely during most winters.

Kahola Creek enters the southwest end of the lake, which is maintained in natural prairie, woodland and wetland habitats as a wildlife preserve. The lake is home to many species of birds, such as great blue heron and great horned owl. It is also a stopover for several species of migrating waterfowl--Canada geese, snow geese, and various ducks. Monarch butterflies migrate through the region seasonally, and the lake supports a healthy turtle and fish population. Mixed deciduous forest (oak, ash, walnut, elm) occupies limestone bluffs on the lake's south side, and prairie wildflowers are prominent in the grassland portions.

Lake Kahola Park was developed early for recreational use. Sixty summer cabins were estabished by 1944, and the lake became well known for sailboat and water-ski competetions during the 1950s. Lake Kahola Park now has 182 cabins, several occupied year-round, plus a caretaker in residence. The significance of the lake as a recreational center began to dwindle in the 1960s and '70s with construction of large reservoirs in eastern Kansas by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Management of the park and cabin sites was turned over to the Kahola Park Cabin Owners Association, and the city of Emporia retains water rights to the lake (Aber 1990).

KAP Overviews of Lake Kahola

High-oblique, late-summer overview looking along the length of Lake Kahola toward the northeast. The dam can be seen in the distance. Steep bedrock bluffs are visible toward the lower right (south), and a low terrace is present along the lake's north shore (left). Photo date 9/97; © J.S. Aber.
Northeastern side of lake with the spillway and part of the dam visible in right background. Agricultural fields can be seen on terrace soils behind the cabins. Photo date 5/98; © J.S. Aber.
Cabins and boat docks can be seen along both sides of the lake, and a county road extends straight west from the lake in the distance. Two streams feed the lake from the southwest (far left) and northwest (far right).PPhoto date 7/99; © J.S. Aber.
High-oblique view toward the north over Lake Kahola. The lake surface is completely frozen in this mid-winter scene. The white patch on the far (right) side is a flock of snow geese resting on the ice. Photo date 1/97; © J.S. Aber.
Vertical view over docks and cabins along the south side of the lake. Trees are bare in this early spring view. Photo date 4/00; © J.S. Aber.

The authors and their students often utilize Lake Kahola for testing kite equipment and KAP rigs. Favorable wind blows most of the time in the surrounding Flint Hills region, and the lake offers many interesting natural and man-made features for kite aerial photography. We have attempted to document Lake Kahola and the cabin properties throughout the seasonal changes of vegetation and water (Aber and Aber 2003).

Aerial Image Map of Lake Kahola

Click on the aerial image map below for more KAP views of different portions of Lake Kahola. This image map derived from a digital orthophoto quarter quadrangle (DOQQ) obtained from DASC at the Kansas Geological Survey.

Aerial survey of Kahola Lake.


Kahola Park Cabin Owners Association--KPCOA.

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Last update August 2004.