The Middle Of It All - Spring Migration in Kansas

April 22-24, 2022

Lesser Prairie-Chicken - Stock

Much has been written over the years about Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in Kansas. These wetlands fall square in the middle of the Central Flyway and are two of the most important stopover sites for migrating shorebirds in the world. Up to 250,000 waterfowl and nearly half of all North American shorebirds migrating east of the Rockies stop in the area to rest and refuel during migration. Of the 460+ bird species known to Kansas, more than 310 species have been observed at Quivira and more than 340 at the Bottoms. Flocks of Sandhill Cranes pass through in the spring and fall, with an occasional group of Whooping Cranes. Where there are waterfowl and shorebirds, there will be birds of prey.

In addition to birding at Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira, we’ll spend a morning in the heart of Kansas’ Lesser Prairie-Chicken habitat. We’ll explore scenic byways, we’ll stay at historic properties, and we’ll hike at Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park, a geologic wonderland.

Join Reefs to Rockies Co-founder Sheridan Samano for an unforgettable spring migration birding trip to The Middle Of It All.

Cheyenne Bottoms, Kansas - Stock


Day 1 (Fri, April 22): Denver/ Cheyenne Bottoms/ Wilson ~ Morning departure from Denver with early afternoon arrival to Cheyenne Bottoms, a 41,000-acre wetland complex in central Kansas and one of the top staging areas – places migrating birds stop to feed and rest – for shorebirds and waterfowl in the United States. Evening arrival to Ellinwood. Our accommodations this evening are in a former Catholic Rectory built in the late 1800s that used to be located beside the Ellinwood’s Catholic church. When the church decided to build a new rectory in 1941, the building was moved to a residential area and was converted to a B&B in 2017.

Accommodations: The Wolf Manor 

Meals: Lunch 

Estimated drive times today: Denver to Cheyenne Bottoms – 5.5 hrs; Cheyenne Bottoms to Ellinwood – 30 mins

Day 2 (Sat, April 23): Wilson/ Quivira NWR/ Russell Springs ~ We’ll spend much of the day birding at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, an area of more than 22,000 acres including two vast salt marshes, prairie, woodlots and sand dunes. There’s plenty of time to explore the auto loops as well as trails on foot. This afternoon, we’ll enjoy a family-style farewell dinner at a 19th-Century house turned hotel in Russell Springs.

Accommodations: Logan House

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner 

Estimated drive times today: Wilson to Quivira NWR – 1.25 hrs; Quivira NWR to Russell Springs – 3.5 hrs

Day 3 (Sun, April 24): Lesser Prairie-Chicken Lek/ Little Jerusalem Badlands/ Denver ~ Because of the stewardship of the land in Western Kansas, the habitat in Logan, Gove, and Scott Counties, provides some of the finest places in the world to view Lesser Prairie-Chickens in their natural environment. Our day begins with a visit to a local ranch for a blind session at a lek. Our trip is timed to correspond to peak numbers of male and female prairie-chickens at the lek.

Before leaving Kansas, we’ll enjoy a nature walk and birding at the recently opened Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park. The 332-acre park encompasses 220 acres of badlands – fragile, but ruggedly spectacular geologic formations with 100-foot-tall spires and cliffs of eroded Niobrara Chalk, a layer of rock deposited about 85 million years ago. We’ll make our way back to Denver for an early evening return.

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Estimated drive times today: Russell Springs to lek – 45 mins; Russell Springs to Little Jerusalem – 45 mins; Little Jerusalem to Denver – 4 hrs


Price: $1050* per person based on private, single or double occupancy accommodations. 

Price includes accommodations, transportation in a Ford Transit or similar 12-passenger van, full-time driver/guide (Sheridan Samano – Reefs to Rockies), activities, and meals as listed in the itinerary.

*A 3% discount will be applied to payments by check.

Group size: min 6; max 8 participants + Sheridan Samano

Photo of two Lesser Prairie-Chickens provided by Buffalo Bill Cultural Center in Oakley, KS.