We don't want our cattle to be tourists at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Several cow-calf pairs are at their summer "vacation" home, munching grass in a pasture that borders the refuge.
However, we hope to leave the tourist excursions for the humans.
People in Orlando don't go to Disney World. Those in San Antonio don't visit the Alamo until they have out-of-town guests. San Franciscans don't go to the Golden Gate Bridge unless they need to go across it to get where they're going.
Those of us who live in close proximity don't always take advantage of tourist attractions in our own backyards. So, Randy and I decided to take an afternoon drive several weeks ago. It's likely greener now. Sorry I didn't get the photos posted back then. Still, even with a brown backdrop, the refuge is a beautiful place for an afternoon drive.
Near the confluence of the Rattlesnake Creek and the Arkansas River in central Kansas, water remains the great driver of a diverse complex of salt marsh and unique native sand prairie community that is Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. The combination of these productive habitats as well as the refuge's mid-continent location continue to attract millions of birds needing to replenish essential reserves and to find protection in the mosaic of largely open grasses, sedges, rushes and water.
For visitors, each moment is unique -- the smell of the moist earth and salty air, the primitive call of a crane, the whispering bluestem, the cacophony of geese, the early steps of a snowy plover chick or the discovery of a subtle pattern or design in nature.
From the U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceDraft Comprehensive Conservation Plan & Environmental Assessment
The General Land Survey was conducted in the region in 1871, evaluating its suitability for farming and grazing. One surveyor noted:
Section 17, T22S, R11W (2 miles weest of what is now the Migrants' Mile area): "All pure sand without any vegetation. All hills and hollows. Constantly drifting. Worthless."
The first European settlement in Stafford County occurred in the 1860s. By 1876, a few people located near the Big Salt Marsh. A company was organized for the purpose of manufacturing salt, which was soon found to be unprofitable. Homesteaders began using the marshes and grasslands for pastures, hay land and cattle production. Besides agricultural uses, the salt marshes were used for commercial and recreational waterfowl hunting after the turn of the 20th century.**
The Refuge is a stopping point for migratory birds. But you can see lots of other animals during an afternoon drive, including deer.
For more information about Quivira, visit their website. There's a Visitor's Center located at the south end of the Refuge, overlooking Little Salt Marsh. Normal hours are Monday through Friday, 7:30 AM to 4 PM, but it is sometimes open on weekends during spring and fall. Call the Refuge, 620-486-2393, during weekly business hours to get any updates on operational hours. Quivira is part of the Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic Byway.
|One of my Quivira sunset photos from 2010|
** Historical information was taken from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan & Environmental Assessment, a 263-page document.