Cheyenne Bottoms in central Kansas is the largest inland wetland in the United States. A 41,000-acre natural basin, the wetland is a key stopover for a multitude of migrating birds to eat and rest. The Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area covers nearly half of the basin.
The wetland’s water level changes with precipitation and surface flows. For example, 2007 was a wet year, and 2013 was a dry year until heavy rain in late summer partially replenished the marshland.
The lines in the basin are roads on top of dikes, built in the 1950s to impound water in five pools and manage water levels. Further subdivision of the wetland pools took place in the 1990s. Water levels in individual pools are periodically flooded or drained to control invasive vegetation (such as hybrid cattails) and promote desirable aquatic vegetation. Additionally, small grains such as Japanese millet are sometimes seeded to provide supplemental food resources, then flooded to make the food available to foraging waterfowl.
The crops surrounding Cheyenne Bottoms include alfalfa, sorghum, wheat, corn, and soybeans, along with pasture.
Two intermittent streams, Blood and Deception creeks, flow into the Bottoms from the northwest. Canals were built to divert water from the Arkansas River and Wet Walnut Creek to provide a source of supplemental water to the wetland. However, drought kept the Bottoms dry in 2022.
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