Kansas Wetlands Education Center
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, 1-5 p.m. Closed Monday
Admission is free
Call 620-786-7456 or 1-877-243-9268
592 NE K-156 Highway, Great Bend, KS 67530
A flock of white pelicans spiral upward, waves of geese talk to each other as they pass overhead, a red-tail hawk dives after prey – all possible scenes visitors to the Kansas Wetlands Education Center may encounter on a typical day. Located on the southeast corner of the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area in Barton County, the KWEC opened in late April 2009, with the mission of providing a better understanding of wetland communities and their importance through interpretive exhibits, educational programs and research.
Operated by Fort Hays State University as an annex of Sternberg Museum on KDWP land, the Kansas Wetlands Education Center includes a 2,000 sq. ft. exhibit gallery, classroom, auditorium and gift store. A handicapped-accessible ½-mile nature trail encompasses three ecosystems –grassland, marsh and wooded area. A vast expanse of windows allow visitors to comfortably view wildlife at the wetland area behind KWEC.
From a spiny soft-shell turtle to grasshopper mice, visitors can view some of the lesser known inhabitants of Cheyenne Bottoms in the KWEC classroom. Children can discover the feel of animal furs, snake skins and feathers, match animals to their tracks and make their own track stencil or rubbing.
Combine a visit to the Center with a drive through the 19,857-acre Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area and The Nature Conservancy’s 7,600-acre reserve. The largest interior wetland in the United States, Cheyenne Bottoms is one of only 22 U.S. Wetlands of International Importance, where more than 330 bird species have been observed. Depending on the season, you may sight a family of one of the rarest birds in North America – whooping cranes – or bald eagles standing on the frozen waters of the Bottoms.