Great Bend Migrating birds are bypassing the wetlands of Cheyenne Bottoms this year.
Refuge manager Karl Grover said the lowland area northeast of Great Bend isn't living up to its wetlands classification. It's completely dry.
"The rains would just bypass us," Grover said. "And when we would get an inch or two of rains, it would soak up."
The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks operates 19,857 acres of the lowland as a wildlife management area. The Nature Conservancy owns and manages a 7,300-acre tract next to the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area.
The wetlands have potential for 13,000 to 14,000 acres of water. But this year, Grover said the refuge might only have a few thousand.
Besides the lack of rain, the Arkansas River hasn't flowed this year, and the Wet Walnut only flowed briefly.
"We've been dry all summer long," Grover said.
For waterfowl hunters, it's a disappointment.
Geese are staying on the only two refuge pools with water, but hunting is not allowed in those areas.
Some hunters are turning to the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge to the south of Great Bend, where ponds are fuller, said manager Dave Hilley. But Hilley said even his refuge needs a good rain.
"We've lost a lot of water to the above-normal temperatures," Hilley said.
Besides causing evaporation, Hilley said the warm temperatures have kept ducks and geese from moving south as fast.
Between 10,000 to 12,000 sandhill cranes are seeking haven at the refuge, instead of the 200,000 that are typical this time of year.