Keith Sebelius Reservoir / Norton Wildlife Area
The area attracts good numbers of waterfowl allowing for good opportunities to hunt all around the area. With high numbers of waterfowl, the management takes a high priority in these species. Starting November 1st, the middle portion of the reservoir is designated as a waterfowl refuge and is closed until January 31st. While duck hunting can be good on the area goose hunting takes place mainly on the surrounding private grounds because hunting pressure is generally too great for feeding patterns to become established on the public lands and provide consistent successful goose hunting.
Hunters will find the area enjoyable with multiple opportunities to hunt. Special draw hunts for waterfowl and deer are available by on-line application and provide good opportunities for kids to get into the sport of hunting. Spring turkey hunters find plenty of competition while the fall pressure is light. Both white-tail and mule deer are present on the area with pressure the heavies during the firearms season. Archery pressure is heaviest during the rut in early November. With pheasant and quail populations up, it creates great hunting opportunities for hunters.
The area provides great fishing spots for fisherman. The primary sport fish on the area include saugeye, wipers, largemouth bass, crappie, and channel catfish. Spotted bass, walleye, flathead catfish and bluegill are also present. Special creel and length limits may be in effect for some fish species. Make sure to check the Kansas Fishing Regulations Summary and all posted notices before fishing. The area has boating access available depending on water levels, there are two high water ramps and one low water ramp.
Camping spots are available on the wildlife area on a limited basis. It is only allowed on the six designated areas. Please do your part to keep the area enjoyable by taking your trash with you!
A number of projects have been completed across the Wildlife Area this year. Upwards of 250 acres of cover crops and 80 of sunflowers were drilled to increase game habitat quality, and over 300 acres of upland prairie were spray-treated to reduce smooth bromegrass encroachment and bolster diversity of native grasses and forbs; intensive late-spring grazing was conducted at two grassland plots to suppress cool-season invasive plants and advance prairie succession. Three successful prescribed burns were also undertaken across the Wildlife Area as part of efforts to improve understory habitat quality for upland birds and restore overgrown areas to cottonwood savannah.
2023 has also seen a significant uptick in all forms of precipitation compared to the previous years, most notably in the form of hail - light to moderate hailstorms were frequent this summer, and a particularly violent storm featuring a small tornado deposited several inches of hail across the Widlife Area in late May. Between hail, rain, and snow, the lake has risen several feet over the course of the year, with several riparian flats around the reservoir and along Prairie Dog Creek having become inundated.
Overall, habitat across the Norton Wildlife Area is in good condition in 2023. Water level rises have significantly increased wetland acreage, and both prairie and cottonwood savannah restoration efforts have seen marked successes this year - smooth brome continues to decline across the Wildlife Area, and significant progress has been made in opening up the understory of wooded areas from thickets. It is hoped that these results will support the rebound of resident upland gamebird populations from the effects of prolonged drought, particularly quail; annual surveys indicate a downward trend in abundance, with both drought and this year's hail being suspected as responsible.
The Norton Wildlife Area is a reservoir property that is owned by the Bureau of Reclamation, but managed under a long-term agreement by Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism for fish, wildlife, and recreation. The Norton Wildlife Area borders Keith Sebelius Lake which was created in 1964 when the Bureau of Reclamation completed construction of the Norton Dam.
The wildlife area comprises of 6,500 land acres and 2,181 water acres when full. There are seasonal and permanent roads that provide great vehicle access to the area. The only fees required are for fishing, hunting and boating which supports the management of the area. There are kiosks placed around the area for more detailed information.