Hatteberg's People - Cheyenne Bottoms: A 41,000 Acre Classroom

By: Larry Hatteberg Email
By: Larry Hatteberg Email

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Great Bend, Kan. -- It's one of those places that is very familiar to hunters and outdoors folks.

It is a stop-over for thousands of migratory birds. It’s also the stop for students from Ft. Hays who will be migrating to new jobs. The students come there to learn and to interact with the staff at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center near Great Bend. Jessica Casey is one of those students getter her Master’s in Biology.

“It’s a little piece of heaven. It’s out in the middle of nowhere.” says Casey.

Cheyenne Bottoms is 20,000 acres. It’s part of a 41,000-acre natural land sink.

“It’s so different from what people think is Kansas.”

Jessica Casey is from McCracken, Kansas. She’s working at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center at Cheyenne Bottoms to get experience working with people and the land.

“Just starting out, I’ve never seen most of the stuff I’ve seen just working here. Most people don’t know that this is the ‘flyaway’ area. And Cheyenne Bottoms is one of the most important parts of the ‘flyaway’ because it is right in the middle. It’s the only place in Kansas where they can stop.”

There’s also a place where you can stop to learn more about the area. The Kansas Wetlands Education Center is right next to Cheyenne Bottoms. Here, you can interact with animals of the area and learn more about the migrations. For students from Ft. Hays, it is a living lab.

Curtis Wolf, Manager of the Kansas Wetlands Center says, “With the graduate students, it is a phenomenal and unique program that we can get those students down here that are interested in the biological sciences and provide them with information they are not going to get in any other internship program.”

“Most of the people who get their Masters, either work out in the field somewhere near campus or in a laboratory. It’s totally different where we can come out here, and interact with the people. Most ‘grad’ students don’t get that opportunity.”

“If they think Kansas is boring and flat, they don’t know Kansas. Kansas is completely different and exciting than most people think. So, if you’ve lived here your whole life and don’t know this exists then you need to come here. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as peaceful as I have just sitting out there towards the night. Peaceful is definitely how I feel at the end of the day.”

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