The Baker Wetlands are located on the south edge of Lawrence and have quite a storied history.  The area is a natural wetland bordering the Wakarusa River, but over time had been drained and converted to agricultural use.  The Bureau of Indian Affairs acquired portions of the property in the late 1880’s and used it for agriculture training for students at the Haskell Institute.  However, the program was discontinued in 1934 and the property changed hands several times before Baker University acquired it in 1968.  Restoration of the wetlands didn’t begin in earnest until the 1980’s.

I’ve been wanting to visit the wetlands for quite awhile and decided to check it out this weekend.  After missing the parking area off 31st Street not once but twice, I ended up parking at the east entrance on Haskell. I must admit I was somewhat disappointed in the access that was available. There was basically a dirt road bisecting the property, and a very short boardwalk at the north end, but hardly any other trails that I could see.  The couple that I tried to access petered out after a few hundred yards and I was in no mood to bushwhack in a marsh, especially after my last encounter with quicksand at Kanopolis (see my previous post).  There was a trail on the levee on the north end, but again, it basically ended about 100 yards from Haskell.  I was really wanting closer access to the large lotus pond on the east end of the property. There were thousands of beautiful American lotus in bloom. What a sight! Unfortunately, they were too far away to photograph from the road, and with no way to get closer — I had to give up.

I did find a small lotus pond just west of where I parked. Again, access was very limited. I had a clear area measuring about 20 feet where I could get right on pond’s edge, but the rest was surrounded by marsh and high grasses.

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I saw several aquatic plants that I haven’t identified, this beautiful white flower being one of them.

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The lotus plants were gorgeous!  Some of the leaves/pads were nearly two feet in diameter.  I saw a tiny frog hanging out on one pad, but he was in a place where I couldn’t photograph him.  I was also fascinated with the seed pods.  I wonder if the native Americans used them for anything?

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I saw evidence of beavers (but unfortunately I didn’t see any of the critters), and saw numerous fish, frogs, turtles and birds. Baker University has been restoring these wetlands for years, which has caused much controversy due to plans to expand the roadways in the area. It appears a plan is in place to preserve this natural area with as little environmental impact as possible.  For more information on the history of the wetlands and the controversy surrounding its restoration, visit the web site:  http://www.bakeru.edu/faculty/rboyd/wetlands/Baker_Wetlands/Welcome.html

Perhaps a visit earlier in the summer would be more productive and I’d be able to find more trails. I’ll definitely put it on my “to do” list for next year!

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