Virtual Tour of Quivira

Quivira's information kiosk at the south main entrance

 We hope you can visit in person, and to help you in your planning, below is a photo-tour of Quivira that will show you some of the highlights.  For visiting in person, the Visitor Center is open Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  If your visit occurs when the Visitor Center is not open, find one of several kiosks (like the one pictured below, which is located just before point #3) and pick up a Refuge Leaflet, Hunting Leaflet,and Bird Checklist.

 Virtual Tour of Quivira National Wildlife Refuge 

You will be traveling through Quivira from south to north, beginning at the south entrance of the Refuge. To reach this point, follow the appropriate directions (depending on which area town from which you are traveling) by clicking the Directions button above. The locations of each numbered highlight is shown on the above map. Enjoy the trip!

Refuge map for Virtual Tour

1.  Mile 0 - Entrance  

Welcome! This is the main, south entrance to over 22,000 acres of land, set aside for the protection of wildlife and wildlife habitat. Established in 1955 as a National Wildlife Refuge, Quivira is part of a network of over 550 refuges in the United States, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, part of the U.S. Department of Interior. It is a popular birding destination, but is also a very good place to observe White-tailed Deer, Coyote, and other mammals.
 Quivira entrance sign 1

2.  Mile 0.1- Kids' Fishing Pond 

For family fishing fun, there is an accessible fishing dock and a lot of shoreline on this 1.5-acre pond. It is open to children 14 and under. Adults are also welcome, if accompanying a child.  There are also restrooms (pit toilets) located here.
 Fishing Dock at Kids Fishing Pond

3.  Mile 0.3- Visitor Center (entrance)

The Visitor Center has interpretive displays about Refuge habitats, wildlife, and management practices. Information is available for all ages. There are also hands-on, nature-oriented objects, and a small gift shop. Restrooms are located inside, and a seating area is located outside for larger groups. See the introductory section (above) for operational hours.

 Quivira's Visitor Center, exterior

4. Mile 0.5 - Observation Tower

A panorama awaits the visitor to this accessible platform, built to allow the observer an extra 8 feet of height for viewing Little Salt Marsh. At 864 acres, this is one of the largest water impoundments at Quivira. At times in spring and fall, there are thousands of waterfowl here. Despite its expanse, Little Salt Marsh is rather shallow: water depths in Refuge waters are seldom over 5 or 6 feet.
 Observation Tower at the south end of Little Salt Marsh

5. Mile 1.4 - History Kiosk
At this spot, read a brief history of the area before Quivira was established. Also, as you drive through this and other areas of the Refuge, don't be surprised to see either a large tractor mowing, or areas of prairie that look like they have been mowed. Native Sandhills Plum has become overly abundant here and efforts are ongoing to slow and reduce its cover in the prairie ecosystem.

 Tractor mowing plum stand

6.  Mile 2.5 - Reno County turnoff 

A right turn here will exit the Refuge 1.5 miles to the east, passing through a section of Quivira in Reno County. This will lead to a blacktop road called Raymond Road. During the summer, here and elsewhere you may see domestic cattle. Selected areas of Quivira are lightly grazed to simulate the effect of bison. As you proceed ahead, you will cross a spillway installed in response to 1973 flooding. Put to the test in 1993, over two feet of water was observed flowing through the spillway during a July flood event. Rattlesnake Creek, which feeds Little Salt Marsh, increased from its normal flow of 20-40 cubic feet per second (cfs) toover 15,000 cfs! 
Cattle grazing in young cattail stand

7.  Mile 2.8 - Fishing Pier 

Located at the scenic north end of Little Salt Marsh, this is a public fishing access point that is popular with anglers. In the warmer months this and the downstream side of the water structure are frequented by herons, egrets, and cormorants. The outflow here is the continuation of Rattlesnake Creek which enters Little Salt Marsh from the west. The structure is one of 80 water control structures at Quivira. By adjustments to structure gates, water can be moved throughout the Refuge canal system. Water in various units can be raised or lowered, depending on the season and management objective. 

 Fishing Pier at north end of Little Salt Marsh

8.  Mile 3.7 - Turnoff to Hudson

A left turn at this junction will lead to the town of Hudson, about 8 miles west. Go straight to continue along the Refuge tour road. The next 3 miles will allow you to see some of Quivira's best examples of Sand Prairie. Look for the grass-covered mounds, especially to the west of the road. What is now prairie was once active sand dune formations. For contrast, compare these to the large stands of trees along this route. These stands were not part of the native prairie landscape, but are remnants of later-period planting for shelter belts and woodlots. Many trees now common at Quivira, such as Eastern Redcedar and Catalpa, are not native to this region of Kansas. Some, like Siberian Elm and Russian Olive, are not native to North America. Prairie management at Quivira includes removal of many of these stands of trees.

 Sand Prairie dune in Santana Natural Area

9. Mile 6.7 - Migrants Mile Trail
Just past the third right-angle turn along the Auto Tour Route, there is a parking area on the right for the Migrants Mile Trail. This trail allows the visitor to see a variety of habitats: woodland, prairie, and marsh. There are two loops on this trail: the inner loop is roughly 3/4-mile in length; the outer loop will add about 1/2 mile to the hike. Along the trail is a 335-foot boardwalk over a marsh.
 Migrants Mile wooden boardwalk across cattail marsh

10.  Mile 6.9 - Restrooms 

Slightly beyond Migrants Mile Trail (located in front of the Envirnmental Education Center) is a restroom facility (pit toilets) . Aside from the Visitor Center's, these are the only restrooms available at the Refuge. The Center is occasionally used for meetings and education programs.
 Comfort Station located just north of Migrants Mile Trailhead

11.  Mile 7.8 - 140th Street (Sterling Blacktop) 

At the Stop sign, you have reached an east-west, blacktop road. Turning left will lead to Hwy 281, Larned, and points beyond. Turning right will lead to K96 just south of Sterling. This road is the section of the Wetlands and  Widlife National Scenic Byway that runs through Quivira. The north end of the Byway is northwest of Hoisington, and the south end is near St. John. In the early morning and late afternoon, check the fields to both the east and west for deer (all seasons) and geese (spring and fall).
  Wetlands and Wildlife Scenic Byway signs
12.  Mile 9.2 - Rattlesnake Creek

This bridge is one of three crossings of Rattlesnake Creek along the tour. Slow-moving and meandering, this sand-bottomed water-course flows eventually to the northeast, joining Salt Creek and emptying into the Arkansas River.
 A view of Rattlesnake Creek coursing through Quivira

13. Mile 10.8 - Marsh Road 

At this T-intersection, a left turn will take you to the Wildlife Drive. A right turn will lead to another T-intersection (in 1 mile) at Salt Marsh Road. After turning left, be sure to look for large expanses of uniformly short grass (less than 1 foot tall). This is Inland Salt Grass, a salt-tolerant species that is abundant at Quivira. The species is also fairly unique in that it is "dioecious" - i.e. each plant is either male or female. Blooms appear in May.
 Salt grass stand near Big Salt Marsh

14.  Mile 12.0 - Wildlife Drive 

When you reach the turnoff for the Widlife Drive, you have entered Quivira's most exciting bird-viewing area. Any season can feature large numbers of birds. Waders such as shorebirds and herons are present from spring through fall, with some birds even lingering through the winter. Scan any of the shallow water areas on both sides of the road. Travel slowly, keep the noise level down, be observant, and enjoy the wildlife. Many of the birds are accustomed to vehicles and will often be less disturbed if you remain in your car. This is also one of the best areas at Quivira to view Coyotes.

 Flock of Black-necked Stilts roosting in shallow water

15.Mile 14.5 - Big Salt Marsh Overlook 

During spring and fall, this location is often the best one at Quivira for viewing large numbers of waterfowl. Upwards of hundreds of thousands of geese can often be seen and heard roosting in, and flying over, Big Salt Marsh. During this same period, tens of thousands of Sandhill Cranes (as well as a few Whooping Cranes) can be seen here. Even in the coldest part of winter, there is often a small area of open water visible from this spot. A scope is provided to aid in viewing.

 Spotting Scope overlooking Big Salt Marsh

16. End of Tour 

This T-intersection marks the end of the Wildlife Drive, and the end of this Virtual Tour. Be sure to check shallow water areas and flats (of which there are several) to the east of this intersection. During migration, these often offer the easiest viewing of shorebirds, ducks, geese, and gulls. In summer, many of the raised areas in these flats are used for nesting by the endangered Interior Least Tern.

 Hundreds of Franklin's Gulls roosting on mudflats

 Getting home at the end of the tour

From Point #16, if you turn left and drive straight west, you will reach US Highway 281 in about 11 miles. On the way, you will cross two blacktop roads. The first, at 3 miles, is the Stafford/Ellinwood road. The second, at 7 miles, will reach Hudson (south) or continue on the Scenic Byway (north), coming out on K96 east of Great Bend.

If you turn right, you can re-trace your route as described above. If you continue straight east from Point #13 above, you will come to a T-intersection at Salt Marsh Road. Turn right and proceed 3 miles, and you will reach the Sterling blacktop one mile east of where you crossed it before (Point #11). If you turn left at the T-intersection, the road will lead into Rice County and the northeast corner of the Refuge. If you travel mile north, 1 mile east, and 1/2-mile north, you can view Quivira's largest Prairie Dog Town.

 Black-tailed Prairie Dog at burrow

Black-tailed Prairie Dog