Environmental Research
Cheyenne Bottoms, Kansas


Summer 2023 – Deception Creek

Drought conditions from the autumn of 2022 continued into 2023. Main pools at our Deception Creek study site were largely dry by the time of our visit in early August. The Cheyenne Bottoms region was in the extreme drought category. However, recent rains had been sufficient to maintain some green vegetation, and many opportunistic plants—various weeds—had spread over the mostly dry mudflats. We conducted kite aerial photography from the nature trail at the observation tower.

Kansas drought monitor for August 1, 2023.
Cheyenne Bottoms (*) is extreme drought.

Kite aerial photographs
Looking toward the north-northeast over the delta of Deception Creek and dry pool. Overview (left) and closer shot (right). The creek holds water in a few spots, but the channel is dry as it enters the pool and mudflat area.
Looking toward the north-northwest over pool complex. Overview (left) and closer shot (right). Note the mosaic of mudflats, active vegetation, and dead cattail thatch (pale tan).
Looking southward (left) toward the Hoisington Gun Club in the distance, where water-filled pools are dammed on Blood Creek. View toward the west (left). Parking area and observation tower at upper left, and kite flyers in lower right corner.
Cattle graze in the southeastern sector; overview (left) and closer shot (right). Cattle are black spots toward the left sides, and their trails criss-cross the area. The rusty brown patch of vegetation is curly dock (Rumex crispus).

Ground vegetation
Velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti)—whole bush (left), approximately 3 feet tall, and close-up of yellow flowers and seed pods (right). A common, invasive weed that came originally from India and southeastern Asia. The seeds may remain viable in soil for several decades. We first encountered velvetleaf here in the summer of 2012.
Foxtail barley, Hordeum jubatum (left), is a true grass that favors freshwater habitats throughtout North America. Great bulrush (right), also known as grey club rush (Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani), grows up through dead cattail thatch. It's highly desirable as wetland vegetation for wildlife.
Snow-on-the-mountain, Euphorbia marginata (left), is attractive, but certainly not desirable. It has effects similar to poison ivy, and cattle will not eat it on account of its bitter taste. Common or wild sunflower, Helianthus annuus (right), is the state flower of Kansas.

Summer 2023 – Ochs Tract

The Nature Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited acquired the Ochs Tract in 2018 with the goal of restoring former crop land into wetland conditions. This site is located along NE 20 Avenue about 3 miles south of the Deception Creek site. We documented the Ochs Tract with kite aerial photography in April 2018, when its agricultural landuse was still quite evident—see Ochs 2018.

We returned again in early August 2023 to take another look. Three large, shallow, pools have been excavated; two are oval shaped, and one has an irregular outline. These pools intercept natural drainage channels that cross the site, and all three had some standing water and exposed mudflats for our visit. A gravel pad at the entrance provides the public a place to park for walk-in touring within the site.

Kite aerial photographs
Looking toward the southeast (left) over two oval-shaped pools. Buildings in the center distance are part of the state wildlife area. Closer view (right) of oval-shaped pool. Note sun glint from waves on the muddy water surface.
Looking westward over the large pool of irregular shape. Overview (left) with kite flyers on right side; closer shot (right). Water channel draining into the pool at upper right side.

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