Randolph ORV Park
A Kansans' off-road dream Short Cuts

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By: Randy Halvorsen - 3/2002

Be careful!  Some of these mud-holes will swallow up even the biggest rigs.

Photo by: David Rush

Frank Holsburg climbing The Ledges.

Photo by: Scott Angell

Nestled in the Flint Hills of Eastern Kansas is one of the best Midwest locations for adventuring off-road.  Located at the NW end of Tuttle Creek Reservoir, just East of the town of Randolph, off of Secrest Road.  There are signs on Highway 77 and Riley County Road 893 indicating the location of the park.  If you have a DeLorme topographic map of Kansas, it is located on page 37.  And if you have a GPS, the coordinates are approximately 96 43' longitude and 39 27' latitude.  

The park is managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, and has been adopted by the Flatlanders Jeep Club in Manhattan.  The park is only open during day light hours, and no over night camping is allowed.  Recently a toilet was constructed, thanks to the efforts of the Army Corps of Engineers, Briggs Jeep in Manhattan, and the Flatlanders Jeep Club.  There is a large gravel parking lot at the entrance, which even has a ramp for unloading dirtbikes or ATV's from the back of pickups or trailers.

History

Scott Angell trying to get crossed-up.

Photo by: Scott Griffen

The town of Randolph was originally settled by Gardner Randolph in 1855.  Gardner filed a claim for the land in the Big Blue River Valley, and after a  battle with J.K. Whitson, was finally recognized as the rightful owner by a Legislative Act.  By the time 1886 rolled around, the town had grown to a population of 293 and was incorporated.  Many of the settlers were of German and Swedish descent, and were known as skilled limestone builders.  Thus, many of the original buildings, including the grade school and high school, were constructed of the native limestone, which is very abundant in the area.

Near one of the creeks at Randolph.

Photo by: David Rush

Because of numerous floods along Tuttle Creek, The US Army Corps of Engineers recommended, in 1937, to build a dam 25 miles to the South of Randolph.  The proposed new dam would cause the residents of Randolph, and 10 other communities, to be displaced by the waters of the new reservoir.  After many years of fighting the dam project, and even the making of a movie, The Tuttle Creek Story, the residents finally lost, and prepared to move their town.

In 1963 the new Tuttle Creek Dam was finished.  What was originally estimated to cost 27 million dollars, ended up costing 85 million dollars.  The new town of Randolph was relocated to higher ground, about 1.5 miles to the southwest.  The new Randolph Post Office opened in 1964.  Today, Randolph consists of a few small businesses; primarily Sharp's Short Stop convenience store, a small motel, a used car lot, and a population of about 175 people. 

The Good Stuff

A view of the Randolph ORV Park

Photo by: David Rush

The US Army Corps of Engineers set aside 310 acres of very hilly property for the use of off-highway vehicles, bicycles, and hikers along the shores of Tuttle Creek Reservoir..  The acreage becomes quite a bit larger when the lake level drops in the late summer, and becomes a little less when the spring rains come and raise the level of the lake.  Because of the frequent water-level changes, mud is almost always available in generous quantities.

Randolph ORV Park in February.

Photo by: David Rush

One of the must-do obstacles at Randolph is 'The Ledges'.  On the side of a gentle hill are some limestone ledges which vary in height from just a few inches to several feet.  This ledge is about 100 feet long, and with the varying difficulty available, it offers a challenge for all.  On any given weekend there will be a small crowd gathered to watch the vehicles attempt 'The Ledges'.  And of course, there is always the requisite damage that comes from such a challenge, the most common of which is broken axle-shafts, hubs and u-joints.

The parking lot/staging area.

Photo by: David Rush

For the hard-core enthusiast, there is a rock-garden.  Immediately to the NE of the parking lot is a wooded ravine filled with truck-tire size rocks.  The presence of  trees dictate your course through the garden.  If you are lucky enough to make it the length of this challenge, you must climb out of the ravine by one of three exits, the easiest consisting of an 18" rock ledge.  This obstacle is only for those who aren't afraid of body damage, are locked, and have at least 35" tires.

During the springtime, the lake often rises, covering the lower portions of the trails.

Photo by: David Rush.

One of the popular hill climbs has been named "Driveshaft Hill".  While the hill is not overly steep, it is long, and consists of loose shale and limestone.  The un-locked, short wheel base vehicles have the hardest time with this climb.  Because of hundreds of attempts, the trail is very rutted, and has lots of holes, which will quickly cause an unlocked four wheeler to loose traction and stop upward progress.  There is a large viewing area at the bottom, and this area usually has groups of enthusiast who have stopped to watch the fun.

Other obstacles available in the park have been given unique names.  There is 'Witches Hill', 'Denise Butts Hill', the 'whoop-de-doos', and of course 'V-Notch'.  Each of these challenges has caused more than their fair share of carnage.

 

Use Guidelines

The Corps of Engineers has set up some guidelines, which will help to ensure our continued access to the park.

Greg Pert of Expert Offroad picking his line through the rock garden.

Photo by: Justin Pert

 

 

The necessities

 

Greg Pert catching just a little air as he drives up the rock garden

Photo by: Justin Pert

 Basic provisions, including air and gas, are available at the convenience store in Randolph.  The closest camping is at Fancy Creek Campground, just about 1 mile to the North.  For other lodging and restaurants, you will need to drive 25 miles South, to Manhattan.  There you will find hotels, motels, and many eating establishments.  If you are in need of parts, there are also several garages and new car dealers, including Briggs Jeep.

If you are traveling from out of the area, and would like to experience the Randolph ORV Park, please feel free to contact either of the clubs listed below.  The Flatlanders are very familiar with the park and many of the members live in the same area.  The KC Jeep Club members are also familiar with the park, but tend to live a little farther away.  The park is approximately 2.5 hours from Kansas City, 1.5 hours from Topeka, and 1/2 hour from Manhattan.

 

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