Daily Archives: April 30, 2013

Arkansas River sees more use when dry

Heavier use can lead to property disputes, vehicle and wildlife violations

The prolonged drought has reduced the flow of many streams and rivers in Kansas, and theArkansas River is one of the most notable victims. In many places in central and western Kansas, the river is dry or has minimal flows or shallow pools. As a result, there has been increased vehicle and other activity along the river, leading to confusion and disputes about landowner rights and legal activity on the river. Local law enforcement agencies and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism plan to patrol the more heavily-used portions of the river, using all-terrain vehicles to watch for vehicle and wildlife violations and disorderly behavior.   

Respecting Property Lines

There are more than 10,000 miles of streams and rivers in Kansas, and most stream and river beds are privately owned. The rivers in the public domain are the ArkansasKansas and Missouri rivers; however, most of the adjacent land is privately owned. Those rivers are open to the public only between the ordinary high water marks on each bank – the line where high water has left debris, sand, and gravel during its ordinary annual cycle. Fences, markings or signage are not required to define the property boundaries.     

When those rivers flow through private property, permission is needed from adjacent landowners to access the rivers or to engage in any activity on the property above or beyond the ordinary high water marks. Violators can be cited for trespassing.  In some places, the ordinary high water mark may be hard to distinguish, but in most areas, it is relatively clear. An apparent trail leading from the river onto private land does not give the public permission to use the trail or the land around it. If in doubt about the property line, err on the side of caution and confine activities to the river bed.      

Responsible Use of the River

People using the Arkansas River are subject to the same laws and regulations as on land, so operating a vehicle while intoxicated, reckless driving, disorderly conduct and other violations are prohibited. Also, destruction of certain wildlife habitat can be a violation, such as destroying beaver dams and lodges. Where there is some water flow, a beaver dam helps hold back the flow, creating vital habitat for other wildlife during a drought.  

And, given the increased activity, consideration and respect for others will be necessary for everyone to enjoy the experience. Personal safety is also important, and proper protective gear should be worn at all times. While on the river, remember that emergency response time may be longer. Most cell phones have GPS capabilities that allow local dispatchers to locate a 911 call and send emergency personnel to the right location.  

With the proper respect for property, other users and the river environment, everyone using theArkansas River can enjoy a great outdoor experience. For information about the Sunflower State’s rivers and streams, visit www.ksoutdoors.com, then click on KDWPT Info – Locations – Rivers-and-Streams Access.

Cornell Team Sets New U.S. Birding Record

In a race against time, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Team Sapsucker obliterated the previousU.S. record for the number of bird species identified in a 24-hour period. These six intrepid birders, all members of the Lab’s staff, went on a blitz through Texas on Thursday, April 25, finding a stunning 294 species-far above the previous record of 264 which the same team set in Texas two years ago and matched last year. This extreme birding effort, traditionally called a “Big Day,” is also one of the largest fundraisers of the year for the Cornell Lab.

Thanks to sponsorship by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, LLC, all the money raised helps advance bird conservation efforts. Some comments from the team about the rare combination of events that led to a once-in-a- lifetime birding experience:

Andrew Farnsworth: “One of the keys to our success this year was a truly unique weather phenomenon: a cold front with wind and rain that dropped through Texas the day before, colliding head-on with birds migrating north from Central and South America, where, conversely, conditions were great for birds to take off on their journeys. It resulted in what we call a ‘fallout’ on High Island along the GulfCoast east of Galveston. An incredible variety of species all hunkered down to refuel and wait for better conditions. The trees and the ground were just dripping with fantastic birds!”

Chris Wood: “Texas is an incredible state for birds-really the crossroads for all the species you might find in North America. You can get everything from grassland and prairie birds, to desert birds, and even Eastern forest birds…all in one state.”

Brian Sullivan: “I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to come close to having this kind of birding experience in North America again. I really think this is a record that will be nearly impossible for us to beat. I hope the wonderful habitats that are here for birds will be preserved so we can continue to see all these species 10 or 20 years from now.”

First bird of the day: Ross’s Goose (midnight)

Final bird of the day: Virginia Rail (11:41 p.m.)

The members of Team Sapsucker are Chris Wood (captain), Jessie Barry, Tim Lenz, Marshall Iliff, Brian Sullivan, and Andrew Farnsworth. Last year Team Sapsucker raised $250,000 for bird conservation. To help them break this fundraising record for birds, supporters can donateatbirds.cornell.edu/bigday.