Weston Bend Bottomlands

View overlooking Weston Bend Bottomlands
View overlooking Weston Bend from Ft. Leavenworth
- All photos by Jim Mason

Lewis and Clark watched wildlife here!

Weston Bend, alongside the Missouri River below the limestone bluffs that anchor Fort Leavenworth, has one of the best-preserved riparian bottomlands in Kansas.


Before the construction of dikes, jetties and levees, the Missouri meandered between the east and west bluffs, leaving oxbow lakes and depositing enough fertile soil to produce a paradise of plants and animals. A network of trails from the main levee takes you through woodlands, old croplands, and marshes and along sloughs and ponds.

In the mature woodlands of cottonwood, sycamore, hackberry, and walnut, listen for pileated woodpeckers hammering holes in dead trees. The tops of some sycamores hold four-feet-wide stick nests of great blue herons. The young riparian woodlands contain immature cottonwood, elm, and ash, as well as elderberries and raspberries. The tender cottonwood shoots and branches provide great browsing for white-tailed deer and beaver.

Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce was once held prisoner in this 5,600 acre Missouri River floodplain forest below Fort Leavenworth. Dominated by huge sycamores and cottonwoods, Weston Bend Bottomlands is a classic example of a mature riparian woodland, appearing nearly the same as in the days of Lewis and Clark.

The birding at Weston Bend is notable, with 120 recorded breeding species and lots to see during spring and fall!  Towhees, grosbeaks, buntings, warblers, orioles, and vireos are abundant during migrations. Spring rains can turn the bottomlands into an attractive wetland, harboring thousands of migrating waterfowl. Coyotes, foxes, and raccoons take advantage of the bounty.

As you complete the Chief Joseph Loop, watch for Sheridan Drive and take it uphill to your right.  This is a scenic drive through mature upland woodlands on loess soils (formed during the time of the Pleistocene glaciers).  It eventually winds back to the base near the national cemetery.  Proceed east on Pope Ave. to Grant and turn right to return to the base entrance.

Sheridan Drive on Fort Leavenworth
Sheridan Drive

bulletPicnic tables

Camping iconCamping not allowed.

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Trail icon No developed trails.

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

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Frontier Military Scenic Byway logo The Weston Bend Bottomlands are at
the north end of the Frontier Military Scenic Byway.

Weston Bend map

Location in Kansas

Directions: In Leavenworth (20 miles NW of Kansas City), take Metropolitan Avenue (U.S. 73) to the entrance of Fort Leavenworth at 7th Street.

(NOTE: You will have to enter the military base to visit Weston Bend.  Since the 9-11 attacks, increased security measures are in place.  Have your photo I.D. ready and tell the guards where you are going.  Your vehicle will be searched.) 

Take Grant Avenue for about 1.5 miles to the Disciplinary Barracks. To the right of the barracks is Riverside Drive. Take it downhill to your right about 0.2 mile to Chief Joseph Loop. Cross the railroad tracks and go just past the picnic grounds. The loop, which becomes the levee road from which the trails are found, is one way and will lead you back to Riverside Drive.

For a Google Map of this site, click here.

Ownership: The entity responsible for management of Weston Bend is the U.S. Army.  Contact them at (913) 684-3781 if you have specific questions about use or management of this site, or write them at:
Forestry Department
Directorate of Engineering and Housing, Bldg. 85
Fort Leavenworth KS 66027

5,600 acres

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