Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


Cheyenne Bottoms is a 41,000-acre elliptical basin, formed during the late Pleistocene, north of the great bend on the Arkansas River in Barton County, Kansas. This depression, surrounded by agricultural land and mixedgrass prairie, contains the largest remnant wetland in Kansas and is an important stopover site for tens of thousands of migratory waterfowl and shorebirds, as well as a nesting haven for herons, ducks, rails, gulls, and terns. It has been estimated that more than 90 percent of the continental populations of several shorebird species east of the Rocky Mountains stop at the bottoms during their spring migration from the Southern Hemisphere to the Arctic. No other location in the Great Plains attracts even 10 percent of the number of shorebirds during migration.

The site has been designated as a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention and is listed as a Hemispheric Reserve by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Preserve Network. Since 1949, half of the area has been managed by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, which uses diverted surface water to provide habitat for migrant and breeding waterbirds. However, increasing competition for limited surface flows and continued withdrawal of groundwater for irrigation has threatened the state's ability to maintain this wetland. The conflict went to court and was resolved, ensuring that the bottoms will receive at least some of its allotted water. During the past decade, an additional 6,500 acres of prime wetland within the basin have been preserved by The Nature Conservancy.

See also PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT: Bird Migrations.

John L. Zimmerman Kansas State University

Gilpin, John. Prairie Promises: History of the Bow River Irrigation District. Vauxhall, Alberta: Bow River Irrigation District, 1976.

Kirk, D. W. The Bow River Irrigation Project: The History and Development of the Bow River Irrigation Project up to and Including Its Purchase by the Government of Canada in 1950. Regina, Saskatchewan: Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration, 1955.

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