Corps of Engineers Milford Lake, Kansas Stands Out as Whooping Crane Stopover Habitat

Milford Lake was one of the many U.S. Army Corps of Engineer lakes that Friends of the Wild Whoopers (FOTWW) has visited and evaluated for possible whooping crane “stopover” habitat. As the largest man-made lake in Kansas, FOTWW is very pleased at what Milford Lake has to offer the wild flock of whooping cranes as they migrate along the Central Flyway. Read our report below to learn what we found about Milford Lake and its habitat. ~ Pam Bates, FOTWW

Milford Lake, a stand out as Whooping Crane Stopover Habitat

by Chester McConnell, Friends of the Wild Whoopers

Friends of the Wild Whoopers (FOTWW) is continuing its efforts to encourage government agencies and Indian Reservations to manage portions of their lands to help wild Whooping Cranes. Whoopers and many other wildlife species often use the same wetland habitats and specific adjustments to portions of selected wetland sites could be beneficial to many species. FOTWW focuses its efforts on planning needed management adjustments and encouraging their completion.

FOTWW evaluates Milford Lake, KS

FOTWW was pleased to have the opportunity to recently visit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer (USACE) Milford Lake in eastern Kansas. The lake and surrounding land area has good fish and wildlife habitat and some excellent Whooping Crane “stopover habitats”. We were pleased to learn that Whooping Cranes have already begun using the lake properties along with tens of thousands of waterfowl and other critters that need wetlands and nearby agricultural fields to forage, rest and roost. Both USACE and Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWP&T) have joint management responsibilities on the lake and maintain ongoing agricultural programs to provide excellent, nearby foraging areas for Whooping Cranes and other wildlife.

FOTWW believes that Whooping Crane use of Milford Lake will continue and increase as their population continues to increase.

Multiple parties manage multiple wetland complexes

The USACE and KDWP&T have, with assistance from other parties, created and manage 10 wetland complexes with individual wetlands varying from 20 to 250 acres and totaling about 2,300 acres. These wetlands are regulated by water control structures, which allow for precise manipulation of the water surface and acreage. FOTWW was most gratified to observe the remarkable development and operation of these wetlands. Figures 1 and 2 are photos and maps of two of the ten wetland areas.

There are three stationary pumps and six floating pump structures to pump water from the Republican River to fill the wetlands. These wetland complexes provide manageable wetland habitat benefiting breeding and migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds and other wildlife species. They also increase habitat diversity in the upper portion of Milford Reservoir by providing habitat in the form on aquatic vegetation, shallow water, food, nesting, and resting sites

The 10 wetland cells consist of earthen embankments, rock covered spillways and stoplog water control structures. KDWP&T personnel use pumps when necessary to maintain water depths of 1 to24 inches. The relatively new wetlands provide a consistent, quality habitat for migrating species and increased local populations of wildlife.

FOTWW appreciates the interest and cooperation of the USACE and KDWP&T officials. We are grateful to David Hoover and Ken Wenger of USACE. who led us on a tour of Milford Lake project and provided us with documents and photographs that assisted in our evaluation. And we are very appreciative of the tremendous work by Kristin Kloft, KDWP&T who manages and protects the wetland areas.

Milford Lake
Figure 1. Westar/Martin Wetlands Area contains approximately 135 acres and was constructed by Westar Energy. A permanent pump is located on this area and floods the seasonally cropped area. Historically this area has been farmed. The lower 46 acres has been removed from production and will not be managed as a moist soil unit.  The upper area will continue to be cropped.  A rotation of corn, milo and soybeans are the crops used by farmers

Milford Lake


Milford Lake
Figure 2. West Broughton Wetland contains approximately 140 acres. It was constructed by the Kansas National Guard. This cell is a “Youth Only” area for persons ages 17 and under. Special regulations apply for use. There is a permanent pump at the cell to flood the area for waterfowl and other wildlife that use aquatic habitats, A portion of the area is seasonally farmed. Normally, 1/8th-1/6th.  of the crop is left on the area as food for wildlife.