Internationally famous as a key staging area for migrant waterfowl and shorebirds, the vast wetlands of Cheyenne Bottoms, north of Great Bend, Kansas, also attract flocks of naturalists in the spring and fall; late April through mid May is arguably the best time to visit. Most of the wetland complex is managed by the Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks, which uses levees and pumps to control water levels in the broad, shallow pools; this portion is accessed by a levee road that runs between U.S. 281 and Kansas Route 156. The Nature Conservancy owns 7300 acres at the northwest corner of the complex, reached by roadways off U.S. 281 or Kansas Route 4, south or east of Hoisington, respectively.
Views from the Kansas DWP levee road are extensive and, while many birds will be seen in the shallows close to the roadway, use of a spotting scope is recommended. Closer viewing is obtained from a rest stop along Kansas 156 or via the roadways of the Nature Conservancy's Preserve, mentioned above. Highlights of my visit included huge flocks of American white pelicans, a large number of avocets, several flocks of white-faced ibis and an unbelievably large concentration of American coots; feeding on the primary levee or in the adjacent waters, huge numbers would scurry off as my truck approached.