Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge was the 229th established and the first in Kansas. In 1954, Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge was created as an overlay project on a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) irrigation and flood control reservoir. Refuge staff manage activities on the land and water. Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge is located in the rolling hills and narrow valley of the North Fork of the Solomon River in north-central Kansas. On the ancestral homelands of the Pawnee (Pâri), the Refuge lies in an area where the tall-grass prairies of the east meet the short-grass plains of the west. As a result, a diversity of wildlife, grasses, and wildflowers from both prairie types are found on the Refuge. The Refuge consists of 10,778 acres and includes prairie grasslands, open water, shoreline, wetlands, and wooded areas found along the banks of the lake, rivers and streams. The reservoir is fed by the North Fork of the Solomon River and Bow Creek. Both are intermittent streams which means they may dry up in periods of low precipitation. The reservoir water levels fluctuate tremendously from year to year, depending upon rain, snow runoff, and irrigation use.
Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge is known for the return of migrating birds and bird courtship rituals in the spring and fall migration of thousands of migrating birds. The Refuge is in the Central Flyway, a major travel way for migratory birds, including the endangered whooping crane. Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge is also home to many wildflowers, plants, fish, and wildlife species that live here all year round.
The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management and, where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.
Every was created for a special purpose. Some were created to protect migratory birds, others to protect threatened or endangered species or unique habitats, while others fulfill other special purposes. All activities allowed on refuges must be evaluated to make sure each activity will not conflict with the reason the refuge was founded.
The purpose of the Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge is the conservation, maintenance, and management of wildlife resources and habitat with an emphasis on migratory birds. The Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge provides food, shelter, and nesting areas for migratory birds such as:
- grassland birds
- tree-dwelling migratory birds
Historically, great herds of bison roamed the prairie grasslands, often followed by wolves that fed on weak and sick animals. Ducks and geese, now attracted to the Refuge in great numbers, were uncommon in this area until large reservoirs were built in the 1950s for irrigation and flood control.
December 1, 2006 – The Comprehensive Conservation Plan was approved stating that the Service will manage the refuge in a manner that emphasize wildlife-dependent recreation with hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, environmental education, and interpretation receiving priority attention. Non-wildlife-dependent uses will not be allowed. Wildlife and habitat management for migratory birds and species of conservation concern, waterfowl and game species will continue to be a high priority. Habitat management for nongame species (e.g., water birds, shorebirds, prairie grassland-nesting birds) and bird species of conservation concern will be elevated to a higher priority. Large open habitat for prairie grassland birds will increase in size with enhanced structural composition through an expanded program for managing and planting native grasses and forbs.
Other Facilities in this Complex
Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge and Rainwater Basin Wetland Management District are managed out of the Rainwater Basin Wetland Management District office. Both Kirwin NWR and the Rainwater Basin WMD have similar habitat conservation needs, and combining these areas assists in providing consistency and effectively utilizing human and capital resources for both locations.