After a night of hard and steady rain, Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area has a little water once again. While most wetlands lack standing water for some parts of the year, Cheyenne Bottoms has gone through a long period of drought. This has left the area without water for many months, which has affected the local wildlife communities as well as migrations. Cheyenne Bottoms is limited to precipitation in the form of stream discharge, river diversion, and surface run-off. With both Blood Creek and Deception Creek having no water flow and the Arkansas River at a trickle, heavy rains such as last night provide the quickest means for filling the wetlands back up. The ensuing rain pools become an important source of drinking water for small animals in the area as well as a chance for migrating birds to stop over during their lengthy flights. With the upcoming start of the spring migration, water will be in desperate need at Cheyenne Bottoms. Approximately 600,000 waterfowl pass through the Bottoms as well as thousands of shorebirds. Without the water to provide a resting stop and food supply, many of these birds will pass by the area in search of the next water sources.
Rains such as last night will be needed continuously to help refill the Bottoms. One quick rain is not enough and we will need quite a few more to reach a sustainable level. While we have small pools now, much of the rain will evaporate or soak into the ground relatively quickly. So while we have the rain, come on out and get a view of it while you still can because it may not be here tomorrow! And while you’re out, stop in at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center for more information about Cheyenne Bottoms and wetlands around the world!