About the Refuge

Marsh Overlook

Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1966 as an "overlay project" on an U.S. Corps of Engineers flood Control reservoir to provide habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl.  It's 18,463 acres provide a diverse habitat and is a haven for an assortment of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibian, and insects.

Welcome to Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge 

Located in east central Kansas, Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge lies in the broad, flat, Neosho River Valley.  The Refuge is located in the tallgrass prairie region of the country, the Refuge is named for the gently rolling, fossil-studded hills found to the west of the Refuge.  These hills were laid down when seas blanketed the area 250 million years.  The Neosho and Cottonwood Rivers provide most of the water for the Refuge, which is located at the upstream end of John Redmond Reservoir.  Refuge Habitats include wetlands, bottomland hardwood forests, grasslands, riparian areas, and agricultural lands.



Historically, the Neosho River floodplain was covered with hundreds of shallow wetlands in the springtime.  As spring progressed into summer, these wetlands dried, producing (“moist soil”) plants to grow.  When fall rains recharge the wetlands, the wetlands provide both food and shelter to migrating waterfowl.

Most of these natural wetlands have been lost throughout the river floodplain because of agriculture and other developments.  To mimic the natural wet and dry cycles on the Refuge, the staff actively mange over 2,000 acres of restored wetland habitat through the use of pumps, levees, and water control structures


Moist Soil plants in Wetland



Three types of tallgrass prairie habitats can be found on the Refuge- cordgrass prairie, upland prairie, and savanna.  Cordgrass prairie is found in low, wet areas and is composed mainly of prairie cordgrass, buttonbush, eastern grama grass, and common ironweed.  Upland prairie occurs on drier sites above the flood plain and contains many well-know tallgrass prairie plants, including big bluestem, indiangrass, switchgrass, and a large variety of wildflower species.  Savanna habitat is a mixture of widely scattered trees, prairie grasses, and wildflowers.

While only a handful of native prairie area remains on the Refuge, these habitats are important to wildlife.  For these reason the Refuge staff maintain and restore prairie habitats by using prescribed fire and native seed plantings, and by controlling non-native species.  The non-native plants are removed because they are not a good food source for wildlife, and they rob sunlight and nutrients from the native species.


Prescribed Fire HQ 

Prescribed Fire on Grassland


Woodlands/Riparian Areas

Woodlands are confined primarily to areas along the Neosho River and its tributaries, commonly referred to as riparian areas.  Trees that you might find in these riparian woodlands include: bur oak, pecan, black walnut, American elm, hackberry, green ash, and Kentucky coffeetree.

Riparian areas provide water and shelter for wildlife, including bobcats, white-tailed deer, pileated woodpeckers, wild turkeys, and many species of warblers.  To protect the riparian areas along the Neosho River, the Refuge staff work closely with Refuge cooperative farmers to reduce sediment run-off into the river.

Refuge staff encourage the desirable trees that were historically present in the woodlands by conduction prescribed fires that run fire through the understory, thereby, thinning out the less desirable, shade tolerant, fire-sensitive species.  In some places, fire is used in conjunction with mechanical thinning to meet habitat objectives.


Bobcat work 

Mechanical thinning treatment