Wildlife Watching Sites in
North Central Kansas

Click on the map markers or the names in the list below to learn about
wildlife watching opportunities in North Central Kansas!

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Click here for nature-based tourist businesses in Kansas!
- Click on the map for businesses offering nature-based lodging
 and exploration opportunities in north central Kansas.

 

Wildlife Watching in Kansas      Site Index

Watchable Wildlife logoHighway-based Wildlife Trails are in the works for Kansas! These will be routes, utilizing public roads, which offer a framework for people to see the best the region has to offer for viewing wildlife.  The Western Kansas Rural Economic Development Alliance is leading an effort to form two highway-based wildlife trails in Western Kansas.
 
Audubon of Kansas has completed a brochure with website support for "Tallgrass Prairie Parkway" Wildlife and Natural Heritage Trail in eastern Kansas. For a copy or for more information, contact Ron Klataske at aok@audubonofkansas.org or (785)537-4385.

bullet- Wilson Lake

Beautifully clear Wilson Lake graces the rolling grasslands of Post Rock Country. The Saline River, open waters of the reservoir, numerous streams, marshes, riparian woodlands, and upland mixed grass prairie provide the diversity for wildlife. To become familiar with the area, take a walk on Bur Oak Nature Trail in Sylvan Park below the dam. The river below the outlet has beaver dams and cone-shaped muskrat dens. Rocktown Natural Area, a registered Kansas natural and scientific area in Lucas Park west of the dam, is a good place to view massive red Dakota sandstone formations, prairie grasses, wildflowers, and birds.

The grasslands around the lake are good areas to look for mule deer, coyotes, greater prairie chickens, and ring-necked pheasants. Woody and brushy tracts near milo fields attract white-tailed deer and northern bobwhite quail. Thirteen-lined ground squirrels and pocket gopher mounds are common in the campgrounds. On summer nights Ord's kangaroo rats can be seen on sandy backroads in the beam of headlights. Reptile lovers should examine rocky areas for collared lizards, sandy sites for six-lined racerunners, and marshes and wet meadows for common and plains garter snakes. Bullsnakes, the farmer's friend, are abundant in many different habitats.

Birders find rock wrens, chimney swifts, western kingbirds, northern mockingbirds, and loggerhead shrikes in the summer. Hundreds of cliff-swallow nests can be found under Hell Creek Bridge at the Wilson Otoe Area. In fall and spring, orange-crowned, yellow, and yellow-rumped warblers inhabit the woodlands. The lake attracts migrating ducks, grebes, cormorants, and geese; sometimes you can see ospreys and sandhill cranes. Winter attractions include mountain bluebirds and golden and bald eagles. The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks has reintroduced young golden eagles in hopes of establishing some nesting pairs. Walk the Dakota Trail in the Hell Creek area of the state park to see many of the region's grasses and wildflowers.

bulletUser fees.  Restrooms, Showers, Boat Ramps, Swimming Beach,
Playground, Water available, Picnic tables, Shelter buildings, Cabins.

211 Utility campsites. 500 Primitive campsites. 4 Cabins (make a reservation online).

Visit TravelKS.com!
Discover what to see, eat and do in Kansas.
Plan your trip today, at TravelKS.com!

Trail icon Burr Oak Nature Trail (0.75 mile loop); Dakota Trail (1 mile loop); Cedar Trail (ADA accessible 0.6 mile loop), Rocktown Trail (3 mile loop); Switchgrass Mountain Bike Trail (20 miles).  For a magnificent drive through the Dakota and Greenhorn (Post Rock) geological formations, take Southshore Drive from Wilson State Park to Bunker Hill.

THE SMOKY HILLS

Tucked between the High Plains to the west and the Flint Hills to the east, the Smoky Hills is a rolling landscape of hills, buttes and hazy valleys, grand in scale, yet possessing a delicate and subtle beauty. Vast herds of bison and pronghorn once roamed this flowing mixed-grass prairie, where precipitation ranges between 20 and 30 inches a year. (This was the hunting grounds for the Cheyenne and the Pawnee.) Coronado (1541), Bourgmont (1724), Pike (1806), Jedediah Smith (1824), and Fremont (1843) explored these hills, and the first permanent settlers arrived in 1855.

The Smoky Hills is comprised of three upland regions of Cretaceous age: the Niobrara Chalk, Greenhorn Limestone (Post Rock), and the Dakota Sandstone regions.  The easternmost Dakota Sandstone section is the oldest. Its reddish hills and buttes are the erosional remnants of beach sands deposited by rivers emptying into early Cretaceous seas. The hills of the middle Greenhorn Limestone section are alternating fossiliferous limestones and shales deposited in relatively shallow seas. The bluffs, flats and pinnacles of the youngest and westernmost Niobrara Chalk section are derived from little shells of trillions of microscopic protozoa that fell like snow to the deep sea bottom forming a thick "chalky" ooze that enveloped the corpses of larger animals, making this one of the premier areas for fossil hunters in North America.

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

Find nearby Geocaches! Click the icon to locate nearby Geocaches

Post Rock Scenic Byway logo Wilson Lake is located on the Post Rock Scenic Byway.
Location in Kansas Directions: The dam is 8 miles north of the Wilson exit (206) on I-70. For a lake map, guide to Bur Oak Trail, and checklists, go to the Corps of Engineers Information Center below the dam. Park permits, a wildlife area map, and Dakota Trail guide are available at the Wilson State Park office south of the dam.  For a Google Map for this site, click here.

Ownership: The entities responsible for management of Wilson Lake are below.
Contact them if you have specific questions about use or management of the site.

US Army Corps of Engineers  (785) 658-2551; 18,086 acres
Click here to visit the US ACE Wilson Lake web page.

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism (785) 658-2465
Click here to visit the KDWPT web page for Wilson State Park. 
You may download the brochures for the park or email the Park Manager from the links at the top of that page.

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bullet- Fort Riley Military Reservation

Fort Riley offers most of the wildlife species found in north central Kansas, including at least one-the wapiti, or elk-not otherwise found free-ranging in most of the state. Approximately 50 elk roam the reservation-they are usually in the northern sector. Visitors should know that some restrictions have been established to ensure travel safety and the fort's primary mission of military training. For information on current regulations and elk-viewing or fall bugling locations, call the Fish and Wildlife Administrator at the Natural Resources Office (number listed below). The First Territorial Capitol Museum is located at Fort Riley and the adjacent Kaw River Nature Trail provides good wildlife viewing. The trail, a little over a mile long, takes hikers into the woodlands along the Kansas River. The dominant trees include cottonwood, green ash, and box elder with an understory of gooseberry, grape, and Virginia creeper. Common mammals of the area include raccoons, opossums, striped skunks, coyotes, fox squirrels, deer, beavers, muskrats, and eastern wood rats. Five-lined skinks, common garter snakes, and rat snakes are here along with several species of frogs, toads, and aquatic turtles. The woodlands contain a variety of woodpeckers and songbirds. During winter, bald eagles may be seen flying along the river or perched in large cottonwoods that provide them a good view.

Trail icon Kaw River Nature Trail (1 mile).

Visit TravelKS.com!
Discover what to see, eat and do in Kansas.
Plan your trip today, at TravelKS.com!

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

Find nearby Geocaches! Click the icon to locate nearby Geocaches

For more Wildlife Watching sites in the Flint Hills, click here Click here for more Wildlife Watching sites in the Flint Hills!

Location in KansasDirections: Fort Riley Military Reservation is located between Junction City and Manhattan. From Manhattan, take K-18 west 8 miles. Travel through the town of Ogden. The Natural Resources Office is a little over 2 miles west of Ogden; the First Territorial Capitol Museum and the Kaw River Nature Trail are another mile west of the resources office.  For a Google Map of this site, click here.

Ownership: The entity responsible for management of Ft. Riley is the U.S. Department of the Army.
Contact them at
(785) 239-6211 if you have specific questions about use, access or management of the site.

101,000 acres

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bullet- Tuttle Creek Lake

Tuttle Creek Lake lies in the Big Blue River valley just north of Manhattan, surrounded by the wooded valleys and tallgrass prairie uplands of the Flint Hills. At the northern end of the lake is the wildlife area, where migrating waterfowl and shorebirds can be seen in fall and spring. The best sites for viewing prairie wildlife are the Kansas State University Range Research Unit (2 miles southwest of the dam) and along Prairie Parkway (west of K-13), east of the lake. The most accessible and probably best all-around viewing area is River Pond State Park below the dam. Here along the river, gadwall and common goldeneye ducks along with common mergansers and ring-billed gulls are abundant in winter. On occasion long-tailed ducks and common loons are sighted. In mid-winter bald eagles fish the river pond and perch on the tall trees of Eagle Island. East of the outlet channel, ponds support beaver and muskrats year-round and American wigeons and northern shovelers in winter. Listen for western chorus frogs in March and April and bullfrogs and cricket frogs in summer. During migrations, watch for warblers, sparrows, and ospreys. Herons are often seen in summer. In the grasslands along Prairie Parkway you can see upland sandpipers as well as loggerhead shrikes and western kingbirds perched on fence posts. Eastern meadowlarks, dickcissels, grasshopper sparrows, and mourning doves are also frequently seen. On the Range Research Unit, greater prairie chickens boom in the pre-dawn light of April and May. A couple of miles west of Stockdale Cove, on private land along Mill Creek, tall sycamores hold large stick nests of great blue herons.

bulletUser fees.  Restrooms, Showers, Boat Ramps, Swimming Beach,
Playground, Water available, Picnic tables, Shelter buildings, Cabins.

211 Utility campsites. 500 Primitive campsites. 9 Cabins (make a reservation online).

Visit TravelKS.com!
Discover what to see, eat and do in Kansas.
Plan your trip today, at TravelKS.com!

Trail icon Carnahan Creek Horse Trail (5 miles, + another 12 miles when lake is down); Randolph State Park Horse Trail (12 miles); Cottonwood Nature Trail (1/4 mile); Cedar Ridge Trail (1/2 mile, ADA-accessible); Fancy Creek Mountain Bike Trail (4 miles).

bulletAn excellent color brochure detailing these trails is available at the Park office.

Click here to get county birding lists for Kansas. Click the icon to find birding lists for Riley & Pottawatomie counties.

Find nearby Geocaches! Click the icon to locate nearby Geocaches

For more Wildlife Watching sites in the Flint Hills, click here Click here for more Wildlife Watching sites in the Flint Hills!

Location in KansasDirections: Tuttle Creek Dam is 4.5 miles north of Manhattan on K-177. Stop at the Corps of Engineers Information Center, west of the dam, for a reservoir map and trail guides. Park permits and wildlife area maps are available at the Tuttle Creek State Park Office below the dam on the east side.  For a Google Map for this site, click here.

Ownership: The entities responsible for management of Tuttle Creek Lake are below.
Contact them if you have specific questions about use or management of the site.

US Army Corps of Engineers (785) 539-8511; 26,800 acres
Click here to visit the US ACE Tuttle Creek Lake web page.

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism (785) 539-7941
(1,200 acres in the park, 12,000+ acres in wildlife area)

Click here to visit the KDWPT web page for Tuttle Creek State Park.  You may download the brochure for Tuttle Creek State Park and Wildlife Area or email the Park Manager from the links at the top of that page.

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bullet- Waconda Lake

Waconda Lake, the third largest reservoir in Kansas, lies at the confluence of the North and South forks of the Solomon River. The reservoir, known locally as Waconda Lake, covers Waconda Springs, a site sacred to generations of Plains Indians. The best times to visit are during the spring and fall migration seasons, when thousands of birds stop in the area. You can expect to see huge numbers of mallard ducks and Canada geese. Watch for redhead, lesser scaup, green-winged and blue-winged teal, common goldeneye, and bufflehead. The best views are from the dam and the north end of the causeway near the goose refuge. On the North Fork of the Solomon River, riparian woodland of cottonwood, elm, oak, and hickory supports many songbirds. Watch for wood ducks among the dead trees standing in the water. In winter, scan the tall trees near the lakeshore and along the rivers for bald eagles. Common loons may be present during this season. Red-tailed hawks are frequently sighted throughout the year. Ring-necked pheasant, greater prairie chicken, and mule deer inhabit the grasslands and croplands. In the bottomlands, watch for white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, beaver, and raccoons. Listen for great horned owls and coyotes at night. If you visit from late spring to early fall, be sure to walk the Waconda Nature Trail in the park.

Camping icon 2 Cabins (make a reservation online).

Visit TravelKS.com!
Discover what to see, eat and do in Kansas.
Plan your trip today, at TravelKS.com!

Trail icon Waconda Nature Trail (under development).

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

Find nearby Geocaches! Click the icon to locate nearby Geocaches

Location in KansasDirections: At the Glen Elder State Park Office, 1 mile west of Glen Elder on K-24, you can pick up a park permit, map, and trail guide.
For a Google Map of this site, click here.

Ownership: The entities responsible for management of Waconda Lake are below.
Contact them if you have specific questions about use or management of the site.

US Bureau of Reclamation (785) 545-3314; 12,600 acres
Click here to visit their web site.

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism (785) 545-3345
Click here to visit the KDWPT web page for Glen Elder State Park.  You may download the brochure for Glen Elder State Park or email the Park Manager from the links at the top of that page.

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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

 

Questions or comments about Natural Kansas may be directed to Jim Mason