Location: Stafford, Kansas
Website: National Wildlife Refuge
General Description: Quivira National Wildlife Refuge is located in south central Kansas in the transition zone between the eastern and western prairie. The refuge was established in 1955 and by 1998 had purchased all the 22,135 acres that make up the refuge today. For thousands of years the Big and Small Salt Marsh has attracted migrating waterfowl providing food and cover on their long journeys in the fall and spring. It may seem strange to have salt marshes in central Kansas, so far from the oceans of today. However, in the geologic past Kansas was covered by a large shallow sea followed by blowing sand dunes. Prior to settlement the area was covered by grass prairies over the low sand dunes that include the long grasses of the eastern prairie and short grasses of the western prairie. The extensive salt deposits in the area seep into the shallow ponds and lakes mixing with rainfall and drainage from Rattlesnake Creek. Salinity varies depending upon the depth of the water however, many areas support salt tolerant plant species. As water is in general scarce in the prairies, these lakes and ponds provide a much needed stop over location for many migrating waterfowl. In addition to a Visitor Center that welcomes visitors, the refuge has a few short hiking trails and a 14 mile driving tour that provides access to both of the main marshes.
1) Since we visited the Refuge during the beginning of the Covid 19 pandemic, the Visitor Center was closed. However, the refuge was open to visitors although we saw only one other truck and a two people fishing in the marsh. We had the refuge to ourselves and it was a great day to get outside on pleasant spring day.
2) We were too late in the spring to see the great migrations of cranes and Canadian geese that fill up the marsh in the fall and spring, however, we still saw a large number of ducks, a few geese, and herons. Along the 14 mile Driving Tour there are a number of stops with interpretive signs, photo blinds, and observation tower.
3) The Migrants Mile Trail is a 1.4 mile loop trail that actually consists of two loops. The inner loop is paved with flat topography making it an excellent opportunity for handicap visitors. The outer loop extends beyond the paved trail on a grassy trail that loop over a sand dune before returning to the paved loop. It passes through cattail marsh, prairie, and tree stands.
4) In the northeast corner of the refuge, accessible from dirt county roads along the edge of the refuge is a black-tailed prairie dog village where you can watch the prairie dogs digging, foraging, and watching for predators.