Cheyenne Bottoms

Up to one-quarter million waterfowl stop at Cheyenne Bottoms to rest during seasonal migrations.

Why You Should Visit

Cheyenne Bottoms is one of the top staging areas (the places migrating birds stop to feed and rest) for shorebirds and waterfowl in the United States. These wetlands hosts tens of thousands of shorebirds and up to 1/4 million waterfowl each year during their migrations. The shallow marshes — averaging less than one foot deep — are ideal habitats for wading shorebirds.


The Nature Conservancy owns 7,694 acres adjacent to the 19,857 acre state-owned wildlife area.


North of Great Bend, Barton County, Kansas

Why the Conservancy Selected this Site

Between 1955 and 1978, about 40 percent of the wetlands in Kansas disappeared. Wetland losses throughout the nation, and internationally, have caused populations of some shorebird species — starved for water, food and nesting sites — to shrink by 60 to 80 percent. Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve is a step toward reversing these trends by safeguarding and enhancing wetland habitat.

Of the 478 species of birds that have been documented in Kansas, 346 have been observed using Cheyenne Bottoms. Through banding efforts, we know that birds here migrate north as far as western Alaska and the tundra at the edge of the arctic, and south to Louisiana, Texas, Central America and the far reaches of South America. Providing abundant food and a place rest, Cheyenne Bottoms is an essential link in this migration.

What the Conservancy Is Doing

Central to the Conservancy's restoration and management plan is the importance of providing a mosaic of aquatic habitats — large, small, shallow, deep, salty, fresh, weedy and open water — to attract a diversity of bird species. A single wetland type cannot provide all the resources required by many plant and animal species. Ensuring this diversity is the best opportunity to meet complex conservation needs and support greater biodiversity of plants and animals. The adjacent grasslands provide nesting and wintering habitat for grassland birds like ring-necked pheasant and raptors like red-tailed hawks that stay in the area year-round. During the spring and summer, visitors will see cattle on the Conservancy's land at Cheyenne Bottoms. Controlled livestock grazing is an effective and inexpensive management tool for maintaining the range of habitat conditions.


Complete Cheyenne Bottoms Bird List
Shorebird of the Month Gallery

Birds of Cheyenne Bottoms

Cheyenne Bottoms and Avian Program Manager Rob Penner talks about the birds that make this preserve special.

A visit to Cheyenne Bottoms can be interesting any time of the year. As long as there is water in the marshes, many birds can be seen at the Bottoms. Migrating ducks and cranes reach peak numbers in late March and early April; migrating shorebird numbers peak in late April to late May (although some start arriving in late March). Some of the waterfowl and shorebirds stay at the Bottoms throughout the summer. The autumn migration is less dramatic, because it is not as concentrated in time or route.

  • Please stay on the public roads. Off-road hiking is prohibited.
  • No dogs or other pets are allowed outside of your vehicle.
  • Hunting is prohibited on the Conservancy's property.

To learn more about Cheyenne Bottoms and other Kansas wetlands visit http://www.kansaswetlandsandwildlifescenicbyway.com.

While you are visiting, we encourage you to visit the Kansas Wetlands Education Center. The Center overlooks Cheyenne Bottoms and features many state-of-the-art exhibits that tell the story of this unique Kansas wetland. 

Have a question about Cheyenne Bottoms? Contact The Nature Conservancy Kansas Chapter office at 785-233-4400.

What to See: Birds

Geography and tradition lead migrating birds to this spot. Some fly thousands of miles without rest, fueled by a few tablespoons of body fat. When the fat reserves burn low, the birds stop to feed and rest at the marshy basins that have fed and sheltered their kind for thousands of generations.

More bird species are seen at the here than anywhere else in the state. Of the 470 bird species known to Kansas, 355 species have been observed at Cheyenne Bottoms.

Tens of thousands of common shorebirds like sandpipers, plovers, phalaropes, avocets, godwits and dowitchers stop at the Bottoms to feed on the mud flats.

Waterfowl can be seen throughout the year. During migration, numbers can climb to 250,000 ducks and geese.

  • From Great Bend: Begin at the intersection of U.S. Highways 56 and 281. Travel 8 miles north on U.S. 281. An information kiosk is located at the intersection of Highway 281 and NE 80 Road.
  • From Hoisington: Drive 2 miles east on Kansas Highway 4. Stop at the information kiosk on your way into the preserve.

Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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