Kansas Wetlands

Photographer Tim O’Brien provided the details and images for the Kansas Wetlands destination.

Located on the Mississippi Flyway, the wetlands of central Kansas are a stopover for nearly half of the shore birds that migrate east of the Rockies.  Over 300 species, including the whooping crane, have been spotted in the wetlands.   There are two protected areas located in a 41,000 acre natural depression in central Kansas, Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area and Quivira National Wildlife Preserve.  We visited both in late September, staying in the nearby town of Great Bend, Kansas.

Cheyenne Bottoms is the largest wetland in the interior of the United States.  The State of Kansas acquired the land in the 1940’s and 1950’s and restored the wetlands through a series of dikes, canals, and dams.   In the 1990’s the Nature Conservancy also started acquiring land adjacent to the state wildlife area to safeguard additional wetlands.   The water in the pools averages less than a foot deep, perfect for wading birds.  The morning that we were at Cheyenne Bottoms there was a stiff wind.  As result many of the birds were flying slowly into the wind.  That made it easier for me to get some good images of birds in flight.  There was also a flock of white pelicans, but I could not get close enough for a good image with the lens I have. We did not have any chance at seeing the whooping cranes since they pass through in late October/early November.

If you were surprised to learn about wetlands in Kansas, how about salt marshes?  Quivira National Wildlife Preserve encompasses Big Salt Marsh and Little Salt Marsh.  How do you get s salt marsh in the middle of Kansas?  Millions of years ago a shallow sea covered most of the center of North America.  That sea left behind salt deposits.  In the Quivira area the bedrock is close to the surface so the ground water dissolves the salt deposits to form the salt marshes.  Luckily we visited before the government shutdown closed the national wildlife areas.  But light in Quivira that afternoon was not as good as the light the following morning in Cheyenne Bottoms.  Therefore most of the posted images are from Cheyenne Bottoms.

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One Response to Kansas Wetlands

  1. Terry Lee says:

    Tim, I travel quite a bit to photograph birds, but Kansas never crossed my radar screen. You have some very nice photos with your article. I’ll have to learn more. Is September considered an ideal time for the Fall migration? What did you mean about the government shutdown. Are these areas permanently closed to the public/

    Terry Lee

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