Dry Lake

Dry Lake is an ephemeral water body at the terminal point of an enclosed drainage basin on the High Plains of west-central Kansas (Fig. 14-25). This region is semi-arid, typically receiving less than 50 cm of precipitation per year. At least 2000 playa basins are found in the High Plains of western Kansas (Steiert and Meinzer, 1995). These shallow depressions are dry more often than not, but may contain water following heavy rains or snow melts. Many opinions have been advanced concerning the origin of playa

FIGURE 14-24 Waning flood conditions at TNC marshes in 2008 following several months of inundation. (A) June, and (B) September; compare with pictures above. Views northward; kite aerial photos by JSA and L. Buster.

FIGURE 14-25 Topographic map of Dry Lake vicinity in Scott County, west-central Kansas. Elevations in meters; contour interval = 5 m. Each grid square represents one square mile (~2.6 km2). Location for KAP is given by green asterisk. Map derived from Scott City, Kansas, 1:100,000 scale, U.S. Geological Survey (1985).

FIGURE 14-25 Topographic map of Dry Lake vicinity in Scott County, west-central Kansas. Elevations in meters; contour interval = 5 m. Each grid square represents one square mile (~2.6 km2). Location for KAP is given by green asterisk. Map derived from Scott City, Kansas, 1:100,000 scale, U.S. Geological Survey (1985).

depressions, ranging from subsurface solution to wind erosion or buffalo wallows.

Dry Lake is ~4 km long and about half a kilometer wide, when full, which is a rare occurrence. In contrast to Cheyenne Bottoms, which has attracted a great deal of scientific attention, little is known about the geological circumstances of Dry Lake or its wetland environment.

Preliminary KAP at Dry Lake suggests extremely variable environmental conditions from year to year. In 2007, for example, heavy winter snow and spring rain combined to produce significant runoff that filled the lake (Fig. 14-26A). One year later, in contrast, most of the surface consisted of saturated mudflats with a salt crust around the margin and wet surface toward the middle of the basin (Fig. 14-26B). Only a shallow puddle of water remained on the former lake floor in the spring of 2008, and strandlines of receding water are clearly visible along the margins of the lake basin. By the spring of 2009, however, the lake once again held considerable water (Fig. 14-26C), although not as much as in 2007.

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