Central Kansas wetlands are finally wet again

08/03/2013 12:00 AM

04/07/2014 1:36 PM

Recent rains have come to the aid of some central Kansas reservoirs.

Kanopolis, too low for launching many boats a few weeks ago, is back up to conservation pool, plus some. Marion is also back up to snuff and El Dorado erased about half of its five-foot deficit from conservation pool earlier this week.

But the downpours brought one legendary central Kansas wetlands from the grave to the penthouse, and has contributed mightily to two others. Keep in mind, all three were blowing-dirt dry a year ago.

McPherson Valley Wetlands

The same rains that flooded parts of Lindsborg and had the Little Arkansas River in Rice County flowing a quarter-mile wide, sent a lot of water toward the McPherson Valley Wetlands. Within about two days, five years of frustration for those who enjoy waterfowl hunting at the area were basically washed away.

“If we’re not going to be full, it’s going to be real close,” Brent Theede, the area’s manager, said in a mid-week interview. “We’re a lot better than we were five days ago that’s when we were bone dry.”

“Bone dry” describes the marsh system about an hour north of Wichita for the past several falls.

Theede said the last time the marshes were full was in 2007. Though there were enough isolated pools for some hunting in 2009, the last good year at McPherson was in 2008. Mix all that new water with years of weed growth and the table should be set for an amazing flooded food buffet for migrating waterfowl.

“We’ll definitely have a good teal season,” Theede said, “even if we get triple digit temperatures and high winds, we’ll have something this year.”

Cheyenne Bottoms

Wildlife Area

One of Kansas two world-class wetlands, Cheyenne Bottoms was dry last fall and only two of five pools had enough water for hunting in 2011. The last time the complex was full was in 2008, according to Karl Grover, Cheyenne Bottoms manager.

Grover said it’s going to take a lot more water than what came to the wetlands last week to get it full again, but he’s not complaining.

“We’ve got water coming in, but the rains didn’t extend west far enough,” he said. “It won’t be coming in long, but it looks a lot better than it did a week ago.”

As of mid-week there was some shallow sheet water in several pools, and Grover was pooling water coming down a canal from the Wet Walnut and other drainages. Tall vegetation made it hard to tell exactly how far, and deep, the water spread.

“This is where size works against you because we’re so big, it just takes so much water to fill things up,” Grover said. “But this sets the stage, at least the bottoms of the marshes are saturated. If we get more rain, we won’t be losing as much soaking into the ground, like we have been.”

Update: As of 7:30 a.m. Sunday morning, reports of up to 6 1/2 inches of rain had fallen overnight at Cheyenne Bottoms.

Quivira National

Wildlife Refuge

Though only about 25 miles south of Cheyenne Bottoms as the wild goose flies, the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge has had a far different summer. Frequent spring and summer rains along the Rattlesnake Creek drainage, and directly on the refuge, had the wetlands nearly full going into last week’s rains. As of Wednesday the place was brimming, and Rattlesnake Creek was still bringing more water.

Barry Jones, refuge specialist, has high expectations when the flocks totaling maybe 1 million-plus geese, ducks and sandhill cranes migrate to Quivira, Kansas’ other world-class refuge.

“We should be in good shape,” Jones said. “I can’t imagine us going dry this year, no way.”

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