County Seat: Beloit
County Size: 719 square miles
County Checklist: 272 species
DeLorme pages 21, 22, 34, & 35
Google Maps of Mitchell County
Best Birds: American Flamingo, Gyrfalcon, Brown Pelican, Pomarine Jaeger
Mitchell County is located in north central Kansas. The main east-west highway is highway 24. Highway 281 crosses north to south through the county and highway 181 cuts across the NE corner of the county. The Solomon River bisects the county west to east. In addition, creeks provide narrow riparian corridors throughout the county. Some of the best in terms of bird habitat and access are Walnut, Mill, Limestone, and Salt.
The county has a mix of tilled land, narrow riparian zones, and native grasslands. Enough native grass remains to support a population of Greater Prairie Chickens.
1. Waconda Lake Area: Nomenclature can be confusing. Glen Elder Dam impounds Waconda Lake. Either name may refer to the entire area. Depending on water levels, the Waconda Lake area consists of about 12,000 acres of water and Glen Elder Wildlife Area is also about 12,000 acres of public wildlife lands. The main body of the lake is a little over 6 miles long. It runs from the dam at Glen Elder to the Cawker City causeway and averages about 2 miles wide. The North and South Forks of the Solomon River enter the area independently and converge under water just west of the Cawker City Causeway. All river and lake access from the dam to the county line on both forks is public. Waconda typically holds a lot of winter divers such as Common Mergansers and Common Goldeneye. Birds can number in the 10’s of thousands (or more). The lake area also hosts two refuge areas that often hold large numbers of waterfowl, particularly geese. Directions: Located immediately west of Glen Elder along and mostly on the south side of highway 24. The area stretches past Cawker City west into Osborne County. DeLorme: 34, A2; 34, B3
2. Waconda Lake - Glen Elder Dam: The dam is a good place to glass the lower end of the lake. The pullout at the north end of the dam currently has a no parking sign. When most of the lake is frozen, waterfowl often keep a few open holes in the ice near the dam. Some good birds seen on or from the dam include American Black Duck, pacific Loon, Ruddy Turnstone, Snow Bunting, Snowy Owl, and Lesser Black-backed Gull. The dam can be a great place to see Bald Eagles in winter. As many as several dozen have been seen at one time. The outlet area (north end of the dam) from the dam to the first bridge east is public land and can offer good birding. The spillway area at the south end of the dam also may hold birds. There is generally a small area of cattail marsh here as well. Directions: The dam is immediately west of Glen Elder. Access the area below the dam from Mill Street out of Glen Elder. DeLorme: 34, A3
3. Waconda Lake – Cawker City Causeway: The Cawker City Causeway provides access to scan the upper end of the lake as well as the goose refuge which is located west of this road. In recent years, several pull offs have been added. This definitely enhances birding access. Depending on water levels, the area immediately south of the dike and west of the road can host a good variety of shorebirds during migration. I once stood in one spot and counted 116 Bald Eagles from the north end of the causeway. Some good birds seem from the causeway include American Flamingo, Brown Pelican, Whooping Crane, and Snow Bunting. Directions: Take Lake Drive south out of Cawker City. DeLorme: 34, A2
4. Glen Elder State Park: http://www.kdwpt.state.ks.us/news/State-Parks/Locations/Glen-Elder. The state park offers several vantage points to glass the lake. There are generally a few grassy or weedy areas that may hold sparrows as well. Most of the trees in the park died in the flood of 2003, so mature trees are at a premium in the park. Directions: Highway 24 .5 miles west of Glen Elder DeLorme: 34, A2; 34, A3
5. Glen Elder Wildlife Area - South side of the lake: From the dam to the causeway, the entire south side of the lake is public wildlife area. Major access points (from east to west) are Walnut Creek, Harrison Point, Meal’s Cove, and Mill Creek. Directions: These roads may be impassible if the area has received any moisture. Access from the Tipton blacktop. DeLorme: 34, B2; 34, B3
6. Glen Elder Wildlife Area - North side of the lake: This area consists of the Granite Creek area, the narrow strip of land between the highway and the lake west of Granite Creek, and the Cawker City Lakeside Park. At Granite Creek the highway crosses a cove of the lake and the area includes some water north of the highway as well as public lands within the first mile north of highway 24 along Granite Creek. Conditions vary widely from year to year due to water levels and crop rotations. The land from Granite Creek to the Cawker City Lakeside Park is currently designated as a refuge/special hunt area during winter months. Cawker City Lakeside Park includes the artificial greens golf course. Hedge rows here may hold birds, but the access to glass the lake is probably the best birding opportunity here. Directions: Access all locations from highway 24. DeLorme: 34, A2;
7. Glen Elder Wildlife Area west of Cawker City Causeway - North Fork: This area includes land from the Cawker City Causeway to the Osborne County line along the North Fork of the Solomon River. It also extends part of a mile north along Oak Creek. The area may have some good water birding, but the main attraction is generally thousands of acres of public wildlife area managed to provide wildlife habitat. Directions: Access from highway 24 west of Cawker City is available immediately west of Cawker City, about 0.5 mile west of Cawker City (just east of Oak Creek), from road 110 about a mile west of Cawker City (just west of Oak Creek), and on the County Line Road about 2 miles west of Cawker City. The road on the east side of Oak Creek provides access along Oak Creek as well as the North Fork portion of Waconda Lake. The road is seasonally closed. The most extensive access is from and along 110 road which is the first county road west of Cawker City. This road can be used to access lands along both the North and South Forks of the Solomon River DeLorme: 34, A1; 34, A2
8. Glen Elder Wildlife Area west of Cawker City Causeway - South Fork: This area includes land from the Cawker City Causeway to the Osborne County line along the South Fork of the Solomon River. It also extends south along Carr Creek. The area may have some good water birding, but the main attraction is generally thousands of acres of public wildlife area managed to provide wildlife habitat. Immediately west of the causeway is the Boller Point area. Use the Boller Point area to glass the South Fork portion of Waconda Lake. Moving west the next area is Carr Creek. The road parallels Carr Creek on the east side of the creek. The area past the end of the road north of the Carr Creek boat ramp can be good for shorebirds. Next west is the Fisherman’s Bridge area. This old iron bridge across the South Fork is a local landmark. If you wonder how high the water was in 2003, people traveled over the top of the bridge superstructure in boats. The final area of interest is an old farmstead about 0.5 miles west of Road 110 along James Trail. Be sure to check the thick timber for owls. Another area of potential interest is along the county line road a mile west of Fisherman’s Bridge on the north side of the river. From this road, you can access some upland tree stands as well as a section of the river. When it is not seasonally closed, a road 0.25 miles north of Fisherman’s Bridge allows access east to the South Fork portion of the lake. Be sure to check out the overlook of the oxbow west of Road 110 at the first curve south of Fisherman’s Bridge. Directions: Access from the south end of the Cawker City Causeway (Lake Drive). The first road west provides access to Boller point Boat Ramp area. The second road provides access to the Carr Creek area. To access the area west of Carr Creek, continue south on lake Drive to Tipton Road, 2 miles west on Tipton Road, one mile north on Road 110. From this point, travel west on James Trail to the old farmstead, or north on Road 110 to the Fisherman’s Bridge area. DeLorme: 34, B1; 34, B2
9. Solomon River - There is little public access to the river, but a number of county roads cross the river and can provide access to bird from the county right-of-way. Directions: Highway 24 parallels the river from the Glen Elder Dam to the Cloud County line. The river is mostly within a mile south of the highway. DeLorme: 34, A3; 34, B6
10. Farm Ponds - Farm ponds are found at various locations throughout the county. Several are on dirt roads in the Tipton area.
11. Cawker City Sewer Ponds - These ponds are easily observable from Lake Drive between Cawker City and the lake south of town. Waterfowl, gulls, and shorebirds have all used these ponds. Directions: Drive south out of Cawker City on Lake Drive. The sewer ponds are on the west side of the road. Delorme: 34, A2
12. Urban Areas - Population centers of Mitchell County are Beloit, Glen Elder, Cawker City, Hunter, Tipton, and Simpson. All are small towns but have potential for mature trees, feeders, and a good bird. Directions: From east to west on Highway 24: Simpson, Beloit, Glen Elder, and Cawker City. Tipton and Hunter are on highway 181 in the SW portion of the county.
Updated February 2013 - HA
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