Harvey County


County Seat: Newton

County Size: 540 square miles

County Checklist: 325 species

DeLorme Pages 61 & 62


Google Map of Harvey County


Best Birds: Canyon Wren (1957)  White Ibis (1980)  Garganey (19**)


Although it is small in comparison to most other counties in Kansas, Harvey County offers a diverse variety of habitats, making it one of the few Kansas counties with a checklist exceeding 300 species.  Just a few miles east of Newton one begins to encounter the tallgrass prairies of the Flint Hills, while in the northwestern portion of the county is a relatively undisturbed expanse of sandhill prairie.  In the southeastern corner are several small wetlands which have produced numerous significant bird records.  Riparian habitats (especially those along the Little Arkansas River) offer excellent birding opportunities for woodland species at all seasons.  Many ardent birders have called Harvey County home over the years, an additional contributing factor to its diverse checklist.  The Kaufman Museum, located on the campus of Bethel College, displays a considerable selection of the taxidermy mounted by Dr. Charles Kaufman who founded the museum.  The displayed portion of the collection includes an Eskimo Curlew.  In another setting, Charles Hall on the Campus of Hesston College contains an extensive selection of taxidermy mounted by Richard Schmidt.


Birding Locations

  1. Harvey County West Park: This 310 acre park includes a 10 acre lake and nearly a mile of mature riparian woodland along the Little Arkansas River.  On the west side of the lake is a well-maintained nature trail that winds through some pristine sand-hill habitat.  The nature trail area is most noteworthy for the American Woodcocks that nest here in years when drought has not been severe.  Look and listen for them near dusk, beginning in early March and continuing through June.  Rose-breasted Grosbeak nests in most years somewhere in the park.  Typical eastern woodland species occur along the river at all seasons.  Directions: From Newton (20 miles north of Wichita) go 14 miles west on U.S. 50 to River Park Road (Harvey County Road 793). Turn north, go 3 miles to NW 24th (Harvey County Road 566). The park entrance is about 0.8 miles east on the north side of the road.

DeLorme: 61, C9


  1. Sand Hills Driving Tour: North and west of Harvey County West Park is one of the easternmost tracts of sandhill prairie in Kansas.  This habitat was created by prevailing winds that scoured the river channels of Kansas rivers in the aftermath of the Pleistocene Ice ages.  The sand dunes deposited by those winds stabilized over the millennia and today harbor a unique plant and animal community.  Although not open to the public, the Nature Conservancy preserves an 80 acre tract of this appealing habitat immediately to the west of Harvey County Park.  This area is sparsely inhabited and has largely been spared the plow.  Even on days when the birding is slow a drive through the area is a rewarding experience.   There are a number of small ephemeral wetlands dotting the area, although extensive draining efforts over the years have eliminated many of them.  Listen for American Bitterns giving their unique pumping calls in spring and summer.  Virginia Rail has nested at least once.  Numerous thickets of sand plum attract large numbers of Bell’s Vireo and Field Sparrow in summer and a variety of sparrows in winter.  Eastern Bluebirds are common year-round.  During some winters Mountain Bluebirds inhabit the red cedar trees which dot the landscape.  Directions: Begin an auto tour of this area at the south entrance to Harvey County Park.  Proceed west on NW 24th St. to the tee with N. River Park Rd., and turn left (south).  Proceed one mile to NW 12th St. and turn right (west).  About a mile down the road is a small pond which the late Ruth sisters referred to as “Benny’s Pond”.  Depending on the water level, herons, waterfowl or shorebirds can be observed here.  Continue west for two more miles to N. Prairie Lake Rd.  Turn right (north) and proceed two miles to NW 36th St.  Turn left (west) and proceed one mile to Burmac Rd. (paved).  Burmac Rd. will take you to McPherson Co. to the north, or Burrton to the south.  Sandhill habitat is present in adjacent areas of McPherson, Reno and Rice Counties.  If county listing is one of your interests, then with a gazetteer and a full tank of gas you can easily tally a good list of birds for all of these counties.

Delorme: 61, C8-9


  1. Patterson Marsh: This is a lake/wetland area covering about 40 acres in southwest Harvey County.  It attracts waterfowl, waders, shorebirds and other wetland species in good numbers.  Species diversity is usually quite good during migration.  Rarities seen here have included Yellow Rail, Common Tern and Tri-colored Heron.  The lake is privately owned but for the most part can be adequately viewed from adjacent public roads.  There are a few small cottages on the western edge of the water, and a there are a few concrete duck blinds in the marsh.  The Patterson grain elevator can be seen for several miles.  A few houses remain nearby to still lend the place-name some legitimacy.  Directions: Reach Patterson from the Burmac Road.  From the town of Burrton on Highway 50 proceed south on Burmac for six miles to SW 84th St., and turn east for one mile to reach the marsh.   To view the south end of the marsh go south on Prairie Lake Rd. for a short distance.  Park before you reach the former RR track grade.  From here you will be able to scan most of the southern half of the lake.  To view the north end of the lake, go back north on Prairie Creek Rd. for about .5 mile, taking the first right turn at SW 81st. St., which curves around the north end of the lake.  Water levels fluctuate greatly at Patterson, especially at the north end, which has been completely dry at times. 

DeLorme: 61, E9


  1. Greenfield Marsh: This is a small wetland in extreme southwest Harvey County.  It has a different plant community than nearby Patterson, with considerable stands of cattails, sedges and prairie cordgrass.  It has produced King Rail in several recent years.  Virgina Rail, Sora, Swamp Sparrow, American Bittern, and Marsh Wren can also be found depending on the time of year.  In August, 2005 a number of singing Sedge Wrens were present, raising the possibility that they bred at this site.  Tall and dense vegetation can make viewing this much of this area well difficult.  Directions:  From Patterson, return to the Burmac Rd. and go south one mile to SW 96th St.  Turn right (west) and proceed two miles to Woodberry Rd.  Just before you reach Woodberry Rd. you will pass through the north part of the wetland.  Turn left (south) and for the next 0.5 mile you will pass through more of the wetland with the road covered by water in wet years.  The road is on the county line, so the portion of the marsh on the west side of the road is actually in Reno County.

DeLorme: 61, E8


  1. Sand Creek Nature Trail-Adjoining the campus of Bethel College in North Newton is a tract of preserved habitat which has been allowed to return to native vegetation.  Over the past 40 years, plant succession at the site has been pronounced, and what was once an open area of brush and grasses has given way to fairly heavy timber.  There is a trail which wanders back through these woods, where one can observe a good variety of riparian woodland species.  This is a good place to look for warblers and other neo-tropical migrants in spring and fall.  Directions: At the north end of the Bethel College campus, turn east on the paved road between the football field and a large parking lot.  Proceed east for about 2 blocks.  The road will turn to dirt and curve south, ending at the entrance to the nature trail.  HIke the trail east along the diversion ditch which soon feeds into Sand Creek.  The trail veers to the south and eventually loops around to your starting point.

DeLorme: 62, C1


  1. Harvey County East Lake: This is the only lake of any size in Harvey County, formed by a dam constructed in the late 1970’s on the west branch of Whitewater Creek.  It has produced many sightings of rare aquatic species.   Some of the rarities seen have been Red-necked Grebe, White-winged Scoter, White Ibis and Little Gull.  During migration and winter, one can usually find good numbers of waterfowl, cormorants, pelicans, gulls and terns.  A nature trail has been created on public land about a mile north of the lake.  This area of native prairie attracted a colony of Henslow’s Sparrows which were present for a couple of years during the 1990’s.  Smith’s Longspur and Sprague’s Pipit have been seen here as well during fall migration.   Directions: Take 1st St. east from Newton for 6 miles to N. East Lake Rd.  Turn north and proceed 0.5 mile to reach the lake. Turn east at the entrance to reach the dam, or continue north a short distance to cross a bridge and reach the upper extremity of the lake.  A number of perimeter roads allow access to the entire lake.  To reach the nature trail, continue north on East Lake Road to NE 24th Rd. and turn left (west).  Proceed for about 0.5 mile to a small parking area at the trailhead (south side of the road).

DeLorme: 62, C2

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