County Seat: St. Francis
County Size: 1021 square miles
County Checklist: 242 species
DeLorme pages 15 & 16
Google Map of Cheyenne County
Best Birds: Northern Wheatear, Cassin’s Vireo
Cheyenne County has larger amounts of riparian habitat and surface water than most of Western Kansas, but it is still Western Kansas. The 480-acre St. Francis Wildlife Area is the only sizable area of public land. The South Fork Republican River enters from Colorado near the southwest corner of the county and exits into Nebraska near the northeast corner of the county. It dominates the county’s geography. The northwest part of the county is known for the Arikaree Breaks. The Arikaree River cuts across the very northwest tip of the county. This “river” is generally dry, but there are scattered cottonwood stands and one low-water crossing. Cherry and Plum Creeks are intermittent streams also located in this quadrant. Most of the south part of the county from St. Francis south and east is farmland. The southwest portion of the county still has some remaining sand-sage prairie as well as large areas of farmland. I am not aware of any permanent standing water south of the Republican River Valley. Whenever you visit, be sure to watch and listen for western species such as Western Tanager and Western Wood-Pewee. Also, remember that many species that are common in the rest of Kansas are good finds out here.
1. Republican River Crossings - The south fork of the Republican River bisects the county from southwest to northeast. The entire length of this valley contains cottonwoods dating from the 1936 flood. Willows and non-native species have increased in recent years. Junipers are also beginning to invade. The river generally has some year-round flow, but irrigation from the Ogallala Aquifer has reduced the flow and drained most of the marshes that formerly dotted the river valley. The River Road generally parallels the river. West of St. Francis, it is on the south side of the river and eventually becomes County Road 1. East of town, it is on the north side of the river and becomes Rd AA. Seven county road bridges cross the river in Cheyenne County. All are on private land, but they do provide some birding from the road access. The County Road 3 crossing two miles from the Colorado state line often provides the best road birding opportunity. Trees and wetlands border the road on both sides for three-quarters of a mile here. County Road G, west from Road 2, also provides great riparian access near the state line, though it does not cross the river. Near where the river exits into Nebraska, Road DD passes through a nice section of riparian timber as well.
DeLorme: 15, G1, G2, G3, G3, D3, D4, and C5
2. St. Francis River Walk - The St. Francis River Walk is located on private property along the Republican River. The south end is located at the northwest edge of St. Francis. Directions: To access the River Walk, drive north on River Street (west end of St. Francis). After you pass the grain elevators, the street turns west and crosses the river. Right on the corner, look for a driveway on the right going down to a small parking lot. The River Walk begins here and goes north for about ¾ of a mile along the east side of the river. DO NOT CROSS THE FENCE ONTO THE CLOSED PRIVATE PROPERTY AT THE END OF THIS SECTION OF THE WALK.
Delorme: 15, F3
3. St. Francis Keller Lake - This small (3 acre) lake sometimes holds waterfowl. There are also small marshy areas on the area around the lake. This lake is kept full by ground water, so always holds water. Cover on the property can be good for sparrows and migrants. Directions: Keller Lake is on the north side of River Street immediately after it crosses the river. GPS Location: N39 46 49.28 W101 48 36.77.
4. Arikaree Breaks - The Arikaree Breaks were a finalist in the eight Wonders of Kansas voting. The birding here may not be spectacular, but a visit to Cheyenne County is not complete until you have seen “the breaks.” Golden Eagles have often nested on private land in this area. Watch and listen for prairie birds at the various stops. The intermittent flow of the Arikaree River cuts across the extreme northwest corner of the county. One public road crosses this river on private land. This same road leads to the three corners where Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska come together. Directions: (Mostly quoted from the naturalkansas.org web site): Go 2 miles west of St. Francis to the intersection of K-27. Travel north 17.5 miles on K-27 to an intersection that is 4 miles south of the Nebraska border and 1.2 miles north of the Williams Natural Gas pump station. From this intersection go 2 miles west and turn north. A 16-mile loop drive begins from this intersection. Travel north 1.2 miles to the prairie dog town (which is on private property, so view it from the road). Continue north, turning left at every road intersection. The most scenic breaks are about 2.5 miles past the Arikaree River valley.
Delorme: 15, C1-D2
5. St. Francis Wildlife Area - This area is 480 acres designated for public hunting and fishing. It is located about three miles southwest of St. Francis and is bisected by the Republican River. The terrain varies from sand-sage to riparian. Several ponds are accessible on the south side of the river. Wet years produce some marsh areas as well. More wooded areas tend to be north of the river. Directions: From St. Francis, drive west on highway 36 and take the first left which is the River Road. Follow this road southwest three miles to the St. Francis wildlife Area, which is located on the north side of the road. Access the St. Francis Wildlife Area from the River Road at Road 11 or from the north by Road 10 from US-36.
DeLorme: 15, F2
6. St. Francis Sewer Ponds - The St. Francis sewer ponds can be viewed at a distance from the cemetery road. They are located about a mile northeast of town, just east of the fairgrounds. The area between the fairgrounds and the sewer ponds is a relatively reliable location for Black-billed Magpie. Directions: Take College Street north to North Street. Turn east on North Street, and scope the sewer ponds from the road near the cemetery.
DeLorme: 15, F3
7. Playas - If the rains come big enough and at the right time of the year, there is some great playa birding in Cheyenne County. The area from Wheeler to Bird City has a number of playas near highways 27 and 36. Even with rains, the potential of playas varies greatly depending on crop rotations and farming practices. Road O north of highway 36 between Wheeler and Bird City has some good playas. Some of the best playas have been along highway 27 in the first three miles south of Wheeler. In general, most Cheyenne County playas are south of highway 36 and south of the river. Check the DeLorme Atlas, but many playas are not shown. Use this link to see a good map of Cheyenne County playas.
DeLorme: 15, F3-H5
8. St. Francis and Bird City - Both towns provide some birding opportunities. Both towns have some mature trees and other habitat opportunities associated with human intervention. St. Francis hosts active Purple Martin colonies, particularly in the northeast part of town.
Updated November 2012 - HA
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