DOUGLAS COUNTY, Kan. — About 45 minutes west of the bright lights and barbecue of Kansas City, you’ll find the Baker Wetlands. The stunning scenery’s roots date back to the last glacial period, or ice age, more than 11,000 years ago. That’s when the Wakarusa River formed, and over time, so did its floodplain.
“One of my first experiences was seeing pelicans in Kansas. Here. And it’s kind of a weird thing… we have pelicans here? We have gulls here?” Irene Unger, director of the Baker Wetlands, said.
“Early history shows Indian tribes, particularly the Kanza tribe, used this land as a place where they would gather, and have settlements here, that sort of thing.”
Haskell Indian Nations University owned part of the land for a long time, teaching students about agriculture and farming. In the late 1960s, its ownership changed.
“Baker University acquired 573 acres of land in 1968. And our application for that process was that we would use the land to teach. So our mission was education, restoration and research.” Unger said.
And so far, Baker has fulfilled that mission. Students, staff and nature lovers have discovered more than 400 plants, 29 mammals, and 278 birds — some of which stopped to refuel on their way south.
“A lot of different birds fly through the area. So Wetlands are a great stopping off points for that because we do have a lot of biodiversity. We have water here. When you think about Kansas, you don’t think about big open pools of water, you think about prairie,” Unger said.
Whether you want to learn, explore, or just disconnect, adventure awaits at the Baker Wetlands.