Wildlife Watching Sites in
Click on the map markers or the
names in the list below to learn about
To wildlife watchers, habitat diversity is the key to a successful outing. El Dorado Lake, in addition to extensive open water and flooded timber, also has adjacent croplands, woodlands, and rocky outcroppings. The dominant habitat, however, is the surrounding tallgrass prairie. In spring, the area is rich with wildflowers. Stop by the administration building southeast of the dam to pick up a map. You may want to circle the lake. Each area offers its own wildlife specialty. The prairie around Shady Creek is a good spot for meadowlarks, greater prairie chickens, and common nighthawks. Deer are also seen here and in the wooded areas east of K-177 where Shady Creek and Bemis Creek flow into the lake. Bluestem Point may provide one of the best opportunities for wildlife viewing. In winter "tame" Canada geese are often encountered along the roads. Bald eagles commonly perch in flooded timber north of the campgrounds. This unique habitat supports prothonotary warblers and tree swallows in spring. Below the dam, the Walnut River area provides woodlands that support cardinals, chickadees, and woodpeckers. Hawks and vultures ride the thermals near the dam, and mink are sometimes seen among the rocks at the water's edge. The park road through the Boulder Bluff Area ends at an old rock quarry. There, during the warmer months, collared lizards often sun themselves on the large rocks. In winter stop along the road in areas that provide good views and check the dead trees in the water for perched bald eagles. Winter also provides large numbers of visible waterfowl.
Over 1,000 Utility and Primitive campsites in the State Park, 10 Cabins (make a reservation online).
Teter Nature Trail (0.75 mile round-trip); Boulder Bluff Horse/Hiking Trail (12 mile round-trip)
Directions: From U.S. 77, at the north end of the city of El Dorado, follow the signs 2 miles east to the dam. K-177, 5 miles east of El Dorado, also provides several access points. For a Google Map of this site, click here.
Ownership: The entities responsible for management of El Dorado Lake are below. Contact them if you have specific questions about use or management of this area.
Army Corps of Engineers (316) 321-9974; 16,000 acres
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks
& Tourism (316)
The cattle pens, located in the Flint Hills on the Kansas Turnpike (I-35) near milepost 110, provide a place for local ranchers to corral cattle prior to shipping. This site is included not for its cow-watching attributes but because it is the easternmost location in Kansas to view pronghorns - often called antelope. The pronghorn is the fastest mammal in Kansas, capable of reaching speeds of 60 mph. The current Kansas population of approximately 1,500 is only a fraction of the numbers that once roamed the prairies of Kansas with vast herds of bison. There are less than 100 pronghorns in the Flint Hills herd but they are often seen along I-35 (the Kansas Turnpike) within 2 miles on either side of the cattle pens, usually on the north side of the interstate. The pronghorns are here because of re-establishment efforts sponsored by the Wichita and Kansas City chapters of Safari Club International and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Some of these pronghorns may have radio collars and/or ear tags.
While traveling along the turnpike be alert for coyotes and watch for the flapping-gliding flight of prairie chickens. Other tallgrass prairie birds frequently seen perched on fence posts include upland sandpipers, eastern meadowlarks, dickcissels, common nighthawks, American kestrels, and the always visible red-tailed hawks. Road cuts along the interstate expose the Permian-age limestones containing many bands of chert (flint). During May and June these roadcuts are good locations to find the large yellow blossoms of the Missouri evening primrose. These showy flowers open at night and are usually closed by late morning.
Directions: The cattle pens are located on I-35, 18.6 miles northeast of the Cassoday turnpike entrance and 16.4 miles southwest of the Emporia entrance.
One of the main attractions of Marion Reservoir is the large variety of water birds. During spring and fall migrations, large numbers of ducks, geese, white pelicans, and gulls can be seen on the open water. In summer, great blue herons and belted kingfishers are found. Cottonwood Point Recreation Area offers a good view of the reservoir. During summer, robins, eastern and western kingbirds, and northern orioles nest in the trees throughout the campground. Though visitors are not allowed to enter the Marion Goose Refuge (on the west side of the reservoir), flocks of Canada geese that winter there can be seen from the road.1n the riparian woodlands of Marion Wildlife Area you can see white-tailed deer early in the morning. During spring and summer search the cattails for yellow-headed blackbirds, which are often seen flashing their white marked wings and heard calling in their rasping voices.
56 Utility campsites, 110 Primitive campsites.
Willow Walk Trail (1 mile)
Directions: Marion Reservoir is located 4 miles west of Marion on U.S. 56. Follow the signs north on the paved road to the dam. Cottonwood Point Recreation Area is reached by traveling 1 mile north and 1 mile west of the north end of the dam. Marion Goose Refuge lies 2 miles west, then 1 mile north of the southwest end of the dam. To reach Marion Wildlife Area travel 4 miles west and 6 miles north of the southwest end of the dam.
Ownership: The entities responsible for management of Marion Reservoir are below. Contact them if you have specific questions about use or management of this area.
Army Corps of Engineers (620) 382-2101; 12,500 acres
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks
& Tourism (620)
Made for wildlife - and humans! Chisholm Creek Park, in northeast Wichita, contains over 2 miles of paved, wheelchair-accessible nature trails. The trails wind through riparian woodlands, native tallgrass prairie, and a small wetland. The diversity of habitats makes this a favorite birding area for Wichita residents. During the winter large numbers of Harris' sparrows enliven the hedgerows. The wood duck boxes are taken over by screech-owls. Great horned owls and red-tailed hawks are commonly seen. Spring and fall migrations bring warblers and vireos. Summer is highlighted by indigo buntings, kingbirds, herons, and egrets. Nocturnal residents include raccoons, white-tailed deer, coyotes, and red foxes. A surprising number of hikers have seen mink playing and hunting along the stream. An inspection of the grassy areas will reveal the runways of cotton rats. These rodents support the many predators in the park. From the bridges over Chisholm Creek and the wetlands you can check partially submerged brush piles and logs for western painted turtles and Graham's crayfish snakes.
New in 2000, the Great Plains Nature Center provides a wide variety of educational opportunities. The $1.3 million Koch Habitat Hall interprets the prairie ecosystem, a 2,200 gallon aquarium showcases native fish, interpretive programs (which often include live animals) are presented in the Coleman Auditorium, and guided nature hikes are available in the park. This facility is a unique multi-agency partnership of the Wichita Department of Park and Recreation, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Camping not allowed.
Chisholm Creek Park Nature Trail (1.75 miles paved with four loops, handicapped-accessible)
Directions: Chisholm Creek Park is located at 3238 North Oliver in northeast Wichita. The Great Plains Nature Center is located at 6232 E. 29th Street North, just west of Woodlawn. Trailheads are at the east end (nature center) and at the west end (Chisholm Creek Park). For a Google Map of this site, click here.
The entity responsible for management of Chisholm
Creek Park is the City
of Wichita. Contact them at (316) 683-5499
if you have specific questions about use or management of this site.
There are more wild animals than people in Wichita! It's one of the best places in Kansas for close viewing of large flocks of Canada geese. Over 10,000 geese arrive in fall; the best viewing occurs between late November and early March. The geese are outstanding subjects for wildlife photographers. The best viewing areas are along the Big Arkansas River north of Pawnee Street Bridge and on the Little Arkansas River along Oak Park and Central Riverside Park.
Oak Park, noted for its dense woodlands, is also a great birding area during the spring migration. Mississippi kites nest here annually. At Central Riverside Park, be sure to visit the Kansas Wildlife Exhibit, which features native wildlife such as beaver, bobcat, porcupine, hawks, owls and turtles.
The many water bodies in Wichita also attract one of the largest heron populations in the state. Eight species of herons are found in the city, and there is an urban heron rookery in Wichita where most of these species gather to nest. From late April through September, great egrets, snowy egrets, and little blue herons are often seen fishing along the rivers. A couple of good spots to watch for them are in the Big Arkansas River north of Pawnee Street and in the river adjacent to Old Cowtown Museum and Sim Park. Scan the wooded areas of Sim Park carefully - it is one of the most reliable spots to see the secretive resident red foxes. The wooded areas of Sim Park and the adjacent grounds of Botanica also provide excellent opportunities to view birds and butterflies.
Paved bicycle paths follow the Arkansas River through the heart of town. Walking paths are found in the wooded areas of Oak and Sim Parks.
Directions: Begin your exploration of the Wichita rivers at the intersection of Seneca Street and McLean Boulevard, near the confluence of the Big Arkansas River and the Little Arkansas River.
Ownership: City of Wichita (316) 683-5499
Pawnee Prairie Park in west Wichita is the largest natural area in the city. Over 400 acres of woodlands and prairie provide ideal viewing opportunities for a winter deer herd that usually numbers around 25. Wild turkeys have nested here, and some lucky visitors have seen red foxes, coyotes, and bobcats. Nearly 10 miles of trails along Cowskin Creek make exploration easy. There is a 4.75 mile marked trail. The unpaved trails can be muddy following rain. While hiking, expect to see great horned owls, woodpeckers, Carolina wrens, and other woodland birds. Spring birding during the warbler migration can be excellent. The park has abundant beaver activity. The creek banks are dotted with tree stumps gnawed by foraging beavers. There are some dams, and slides indicate favorite travel routes. Muskrats and mink are occasionally seen. One of the best ways to learn which mammals are resident is by searching for tracks along the creek banks. Raccoons, opossums, and striped skunks are common. The area also provides critical habitat for the eastern spotted skunk, a Kansas threatened species.
Camping not allowed.
Plumlee Trails (4.75 miles with 3 loops. 0.75 mile is paved; the rest unpaved) Pawnee Prairie Park is the only park in the Wichita metropolitan area which allows horseback riding. The trails are named for Irene Plumlee, an avid horseback rider who helped develop the trail system in the park.
Directions: Pawnee Prairie Park has two entrances: on the east side at 2625 South Tyler Road, and on the west side at 9910 West Pawnee.
Ownership: The entity responsible for management of Pawnee Prairie Park is the City of Wichita. Contact them at (316) 683-5499 if you have specific questions about use or management of this site.
This impoundment was constructed primarily as a municipal water supply for the city of Wichita. Cheney State Park and Cheney Wildlife Area were developed around it. The west shore area of the state park contains grassy campsites under tall cottonwood trees, ideal for red-headed woodpeckers, orioles, kingbirds, and Mississippi kites. Scan the open water for large flocks of waterfowl during migrations and for bald eagles during the winter. Cheney Wildlife Area on the north end of the reservoir offers more diverse habitats and consequently more wildlife than the park. Trees, shrubs, native grasses, and forbs have been planted. This area supports pheasants, quail, rabbits, and squirrels. Deer are plentiful, and sometimes coyotes, raccoons, and black-tailed jackrabbits are seen. Most of the streams flowing through the area have abundant beaver sign. A Canada goose restoration flock has been established, and pairs are often found nesting during the spring. Where the Ninnescah River's north fork flows into the reservoir, watch for wood ducks, belted kingfishers, green-backed herons, and woodland birds. The shallow areas on the north end of the reservoir also attract large flocks of white pelicans during spring and fall migrations.
203 Utility campsites, Primitive camping, 7 Cabins (make a reservation online).
Geifer Nature Trail (1/8 mile); Spring Creek Nature Trail (mile).
Directions: Cheney Reservoir is located approximately 14 miles south of Hutchinson on K-17 and approximately 30 miles west of Wichita. From U.S. 54 go 4 miles north on K-251 to the Cheney Reservoir dam. Pick up a lake map at the state park because the roads around the lake can be confusing. For a Google Map of this site, click here.
Ownership: The entities responsible for management of Cheney are below. Contact them if you have specific questions about use or management of this area.
Bureau of Reclamation; 16,700 acres
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks
& Tourism; Cheney State Park (316)
542-3664; Cheney Wildlife Area (316) 459-6922
Questions or comments about Natural Kansas may be directed to
Questions or comments about Natural Kansas may be directed to Jim Mason