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Archive for Monday, July 30, 2012

Kansas wetlands hit hard by drought

July 30, 2012

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— Two of Kansas’ premier wetlands are in danger of drying up, and wildlife officials say that could be devastating for waterfowl hunters and wildlife watchers down the road.

On the flip side, managers at Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge said the low-to-nonexistent water levels give them access to areas they usually can’t get to when water is plentiful.

The Wichita Eagle reported Sunday that wildlife officials believe the conditions of the central Kansas wetlands are probably the worst they’ve been in about 20 years.

Cheyenne Bottoms, near Great Bend, has cracks crisscrossing broad expanses of dirt usually covered by water. Only about an acre’s worth of stagnant puddles remain.

At Quivira, about 90 miles northwest of Wichita, winds blow up white salt storms across bone-dry alkali marsh beds.

One of the area’s top features, Big Salt Marsh, is about 80 percent dry, while Little Salt Marsh still has about 30 percent of its water, but it’s shallow.

Both wetland areas usually have thousands of acres of shallow water intertwined with lush marsh plants. That makes them a popular resting place for millions of migrating birds every fall, but that could change if the skies don’t open up with precipitation sometime soon.

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