- 76.7 miles (123 km)
- 90 minutes to drive or 5 hours to enjoy the Byway.
The Wetlands & Wildlife Scenic Byway provides a natural, rural experience. Along the route that extends through Barton, Reno, and Stafford counties in central Kansas, hills roll into the horizon while trees dot the landscape and streams wind down the hillsides. But the real jewels of the Byway are Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, two of the largest wetland ecosystems in the world. They anchor the drive with amazing natural beauty and endless possibilities for exploring nature, providing opportunities for hiking, viewing wildlife, and one-of-a kind bird-watching.
Cheyenne Bottoms is a huge basin covering 20,000 acres where 320 of the 417 species of birds in Kansas can be seen. It is considered the largest marsh in the interior of the United States and has been designated as a Wetland of International Importance by international treaty. While visiting Cheyenne Bottoms, stop by the scenic overlook for an elevated view of the entire basin and go for a hike along one of the many dikes. Adjoining Cheyenne Bottoms is the Nature Conservancy Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve. The conservancy seeks to preserve and maintain the vital wetlands so that the multitudes of migrating birds that have relied on the marshes for thousands of years will continue to have a safe haven. So make sure to bring your binoculars for some high-quality bird-watching!
Quivira National Wildlife Refuge is home to 22,135 acres of prairie grass, salt marshes, sand dunes, canals, dikes, and timber. During the spring migration, Quivira is a staging area for over 500,000 birds. Enjoy the sights while hiking along one of many trails like Birdhouse Boulevard and the wheelchair accessible Migrant's Mile Nature Trail. Quivira also offers an educational visitor center for curious nature lovers where you can measure how tall you are compared to a Whooping Crane and enjoy other interpretive panels. Go for a drive along the four-mile Quivira National Wildlife Refuge Drive to see views of the Big Salt Marsh and the surrounding habitat.
Whether it is hiking, wildlife viewing, or bird-watching, there will always be plenty to do along the Kansas Wetlands & Wildlife Scenic Byway.
Points of Interest
Points of Interest Along The Way
Central Kansas Raptor Rehab Education Facility (KS)
The center will focus on rehabilitating injured raptors and educating groups about the impact humans have on habitats. Their mission is to encourage wise use of our natural resources with a primary focus on educational programs designed for elementary school children. Naturalists will deliver interpretive programs for visitors during weekdays with flighted bird programs on weekends.
For directions, check under Navigation in Before You Go.""
Cheyenne Bottoms Scenic Overlook (KS)
This overlook provides the only elevated view of the entire Cheyenne Bottoms wetlands basin. It provides the traveler with their first exposure to the vastness of prairie wetlands and will be the first point of wetlandsinterpretation on the Byway. The site will include an observation area, picnic tables, and interpretive kiosk.
Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area (KS)
The Kansas Dept. of Wildlife and Parks operates 19,857 acres of the Bottoms as a wildlife management area. Nature enthusiasts, hikers, birdwatchers and photographers will marvel at the wildife and flora that depend on the marshland. Cheyenne Bottoms provides critical habitat for threatened and endangered birds. Besides birds, there are 23 species ofmammals, 19 species of reptiles, and 9 species of amphibians.
Kansas Wetlands Interpretive/Educational Center (KS)
The center will tell the story of the Kansas Wetlands complex through a theme of "motion and change". Interpretation will be told from five key areas: people, wildlife, weather, geology, and wildfire. The difference between Cheyenne Bottoms as a fresh water marsh and Quivira as a salt water march will be explored. Visitors may experience a board walk through the mitigation marsh as well as a short wildlife trail through the adjoining shelter belt area.
Quivira National Wildlife Refuge (KS)
Quivira is 22,135 acres of prairie grasses, salt marshes, sand dunes, canals, dikes, and timber. A system of 21 miles of canals and 25 miles of dikes provides nearly 6,000 acres of managed wetland and marshes. Little Salt Marsh and Big Salt Marsh are ancient basins that have seen hundreds of thousands of waterfowl arrive for food, cover, and a place torest on migration trips. Original prairie, stabilized sand dunes and 15 acres of century old cottonwoods encourage walks.
Quivira National Wildlife Refuge Wildlife Drive (KS)
The four-mile Wildlife Drive, at the north end of the Refuge, offers wildlife watching opportunities and views of the Big Salt Marsh and surrounding habitats. An accessible spotting scope is provided to assist visitors in watching wildlife.
The starting point of the Wildlife Drive is located directly on the Byway at Point 33 on the Scenic Byway map. While traveling east on NE 140th Street along the Byway there will be a directional sign located at the entrance of the drive within the refuge property on the only road heading north.
The Nature Conservancy Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve (KS)
The Nature Conservancy owns and manages more than 7,300 acres of critical wetlands in the midst of this world-class natural wonder. These shallow marshes - averaging less than one foot deep - are ideal habitatsfor wading shorebirds. The Conservancy seeks to preserve and maintain these vital wetlands so that the multitudes of migrating birds, which have relied on this great marsh for thousands of years, may continue to find safe haven.
Urban Songbird Habitat Project (KS)
The Hoisington High School Environmental science class, along with the City of Hoisington, continues to develop a songbird habitat on an empty lot devastated by the 2001 Hoisington tornado. The 2004-2005 class, along with Rob Penner, manager of The Nature Conservancy Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve, developed a design and placement of plants and trees that are known to attract songbirds and that provide food and shelter. Their plans include a drip irrigation system to ensure the plants and trees receive water throughout the hot summer months, a walking trail, a small pond, a gazebo and park benches, bird baths, and bird feeders. The park is a "living laboratory"; the class monitors what types of birds the park attracts, as well as other animals and insects. Currently, the gazebo is almost done and benches have been placed along the walking trail. The brick walking trail is done, so explore the progress that has been made thus far.
At the intersection of Highway K-4 & Center Street turn south for seven blocks and then turn west two blocks on 2nd Street.