Cheyenne Bottoms and The Kansas Wetlands Education Center
Located just north of the Arkansas River in the plains of central Kansas, Cheyenne Bottoms is a natural geographic depression that makes up the largest marsh in the interior of the United States. In 1998, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands named both Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge (also in Kansas), were declared Wetlands of International Importance. The bottoms are considered the most important shorebird migration point in the western hemisphere, where more than 45% of the North American shorebird population stops off here during the spring. The marsh also contains raccoons, deer, beavers, muskrats, and mink as well as many reptiles and fish. Massasauga rattlesnakes love spending spring and fall in the bottoms.
There is also a driving tour that will allow visitors to drive through the marsh and learn about its importance and get a better understanding of its significance. The tour has 13 parts to it and will take guests around an hour to complete. Additionally, you can walk or drive approximately 15 miles on gravel roads throughout the area but please be aware that the marsh can change rapidly when there is severe weather in the area.
This tour, however, is not at where you will learn the most about the fascinating marsh. The Kansas Wetlands Education Center is located directly across from the bottoms and takes guests on an adventure through the creation of the marsh to what we see today. The education center offers a panoramic view of the marsh though displays, binoculars, and even meeting some of the animals that call the marsh home.
The Koch Wetlands exhibit focuses on why birds migrate and what plants and animals are found there. The exhibit also has interpretive displays, artifacts, and hands on activities. The KWEC completed an exhibit enhancement in 2018 that added 9 new exhibits and 14 interactive pieces. It includes a one-of-a-kind floor projection game among other cool details. The classroom is the best because students and adults alike get to learn about lizards, turtles, and bats! Field trips, classes, and arts and crafts are enjoyed in this room. There are so many things for visitors to do and enjoy that the opportunities are truly endless.
The center also hosts the Wing and Wetlands Birding Festival and the Butterfly Festival. This this birding festival was held virtually but still had a tremendous response. It is their hope that 2022 may bring back the in-person event but that will be determined at a later date. If you are interested in participating in the 2022 event or want to learn more about it, reach out to our good friend Christina Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 620-792-2750. Even though the 2020 Butterfly Festival was closed to due the pandemic, the 2019 event showed great promise as more than 700 people attended. This year’s event is scheduled for September 18. Some of the favorite activities for the Festival include monarch tagging, an insect zoo, milkweed seed bombs, butterfly photo boards, crafts, and door prizes. Call KWEC at 1-877-243-9268 for more information.
The wetlands and the amazing educational center is a place we could literally spend all day at. We know that one visit here and you will say the same thing! This place should be on any nature lovers bucket list!