Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area

Cheyenne Bottoms Entrance sign
All Photos on this page by Jim Mason

Don't miss this one! Cheyenne Bottoms is a natural geologic depression of about 60 square miles lying north of the Arkansas River in the center of the state.


Cheyenne Bottoms is the largest marsh in the interior of the United States and was designated a Wetland of International Importance in 1988 by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, one of two sites in the state - the other being Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. The area is considered the most important shorebird migration point in the western hemisphere. Approximately 45 percent of the North American shorebird population stops at the Bottoms during spring migration.

View across Pool 1A

Although known primarily for birds, the area also contains raccoons, deer, beavers, muskrats, and mink as well as a variety of reptiles. Western painted turtles, sliders, diamondback and northern water snakes, and Graham's crayfish snakes frequent the water's edge. In spring and fall, massasauga rattlesnakes regularly bask in the sun on the road.

Information kiosk

You may access the wetlands via any of three different entrances - north (K-4 highway), southeast (K-156 highway) or west (US 281 highway).  Information kiosks are located on each entry drive (red stars on map below). Visitors to Cheyenne Bottoms should stop at one of these kiosks for maps, checklists, and a driving tour booklet.


The driving tour booklet describes thirteen points of interest along the drive through Cheyenne Bottoms, which are accompanied by interpretive signage.  By following the tour, visitors get a better understanding of the significance of the area as well as the complexity of managing a wetland resource with limited water. In times of severe drought, the Bottoms may go completely dry.

Tour stop #9

Cheyenne Bottoms observation tower

A good place to get a feel for the expanse of the landscape at Cheyenne Bottoms,
as well as the challenge of managing the wetlands within it, is at the overlook platform
located a short distance from the K-156 entrance.  (red arrow on map below)

View to the northwest from the tower.

Two of the water control structures are visible just a short distance to the north, and the wetlands themselves stretch out of sight into the distance.  On a good day during migration, large flocks of shorebirds or waterfowl may be seen from here.

Be sure to bring your binoculars and spotting scope!

At least 320 species of birds have been recorded at the Bottoms. The area is critical habitat for several threatened and endangered species, including the whooping crane, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, least tern, and piping plover. More than 25 species of ducks and geese have been identified at the Bottoms and at times have numbered in excess of 600,000 birds. In mid-March thousands of sandhill cranes stop on the way to their staging area along the Platte River in Nebraska. April brings tens of thousands of shorebirds to the mudflats where they probe the mud for bloodworms, the larval stage of a small fly known as the midge. During the summer, swarms of these insects are seen over the marshes. Common shorebirds include a variety of sandpipers, plovers, phalaropes, avocets, godwits, and dowitchers. Summer visitors often encounter huge flocks of red-winged and yellow-headed blackbirds. Herons are also common during the summer; great blue herons, snowy egrets, black-crowned night herons, and American bitterns search the shallows for fish and frogs. A highlight of fall migration is the impressive flocks of undulating, circling, white pelicans. At times, large "islands" of the birds are seen across the marsh.

Camping icon Primitive camping is available at the roadside area on NE 40 Rd. ~1 mile west of the Area Headquarters.

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Trail icon Visitors can drive or walk on approximately 15 miles of gravel roads within the area.

Click here to get county birding lists for Kansas. Click the icon to find a birding list for Barton County.

Find nearby Geocaches! Click the icon to locate nearby Geocaches

Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic Byway Logo
The Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway travels by both Cheyenne Bottoms
and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

Cheyenne Bottoms map

Directions: From U.S. 56, east of Great Bend, travel 6 miles northeast on K-156 to one of the three entrances to Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area. To use the west entrance, drive 6 miles north of Great Bend on U.S. 281 and 2 miles east to the area headquarters.  The north entrance is located on K-4 highway at the Red Wing intersection 6 miles east of Hoisington.
Location in Kansas For a Google Map of this site, click here.

Ownership: The responsible entity for management of Cheyenne Bottoms is the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism.  Contact them at (620) 793-3066 if you have specific questions about use or management of the site. 19,857 acres
The KDWPT web page for the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area here.

You may download the KDWPT brochure on Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area here.
Bird, mammal and reptile/amphibian checklists for Cheyenne Bottoms may be found here.

The Nature Conservancy owns 7,500 acres immediately northwest of the state property.
Information kiosks are located on US 281 two miles south of Hoisington and on K-4 two miles east of Hoisington.
Visit their website to learn more about this part of the Cheyenne Bottoms ecosystem.

The new Kansas Wetlands Education Center is located near the south entrance of Cheyenne Bottoms.
Visit their website for more information.

Another informative website on regional attractions is maintained by
the Great Bend Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

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The Natural Kansas web site © 2011 by
the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism.

Re-publication of site content in any form other than for personal use requires written permission.  If you are a Kansas resident, please assist with this and other wildlife viewing and conservation programs by contributing to the Chickadee Checkoff on your state tax form.

Questions or comments about Natural Kansas may be directed to
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism