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Recent snow is welcome but not enough to make a difference in the drought in Cheyenne Bottoms


BARTON COUNTY, Kan. (KWCH) — Much of central Kansas received measurable snow this past weekend, including Cheyenne Bottoms in Barton County. Moisture was welcome in the area that desperately needed it, but the key question is how much difference, if any, it has made to combat the prolonged drought.

News Tuesday 12 examined the effect of recent snow on Cheyenne Bottoms, a wetland that occupies about 41,000 acres.

“We had about four inches of snow, and it was pretty decent wet snow,” said Curtis Wolf, director of the Wetlands Education Center. “As far as Cheyenne Bottoms is concerned, it may not have done much to break the drought and dry conditions that we have.”

Wolf said it will take a lot more snow than has fallen recently to make a difference in Cheyenne Bottoms.

“In 2022, we only recorded about 17 inches of rain for the year, and that’s about nine inches below our average,” he said.

Last year it rained 45 times in the Barton County Wetlands. Even that wasn’t close enough to transition into the current situation when it comes to droughts.

“Those 45 events, most of them were small rain events and just weren’t providing the needed runoff,” Wolf said.

For Cheyenne Bottoms, he said just wetting the soil isn’t enough.

“We depend almost exclusively on runoff and heavy rainfall to create water in the wetlands themselves,” Wolf explained. “Violent storms in short periods of time are really what we need. So getting rainfall of two, three, four inches is going to be really beneficial to the wetlands.

But, Wolf said, based on the story, he believes they could see much more needed storms this year.

“We don’t know what the forecast is, the long-term forecast, but we can be confident that we will have some nice rain events soon,” he said.

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