Chaplin Nature Center

Chaplin Entry Sign
Entrance to Chaplin Nature Center
- All photos by Jim Mason

Chaplin Nature Center is located on the inner edge of a bend in the Arkansas River.  More than five miles of walking trails provide easy access to bottomland timber & prairies, upland prairies, a spring-fed creek, and the Arkansas River.  You may pick up a trail map at the visitor center.

The varied habitat has attracted 225 species of birds, including tree sparrows, Harris' sparrows, rufous-sided towhees, cedar waxwings, and Carolina wrens. The woodlands harbor a good diversity of tree species, including black walnut, pecan, cottonwood, sycamore, red elm, and a showy springtime display of redbuds. Pileated woodpeckers inhabit the bottomlands, along with wood thrushes, wild turkeys, bobcats, and white-tailed deer. The rough green snake, a favorite of reptile lovers, is sometimes seen. A popular wintertime activity is watching bald eagles from the riverbanks.

Arkansas River sandbar
Sandbar on the Arkansas River at Chaplin Nature Center

The sandbar on the river is 1/4 mile long when the river is low.   During summer, it is alive with tiger beetles, dragonflies and killdeer.  Look for tracks of deer, coyote and raccoon as well as the occasional female water turtle either going to or coming from her nest above the high water line.


The visitor center features wildlife displays, a nature library, a gift shop, and a bird observation area located on a second-floor open deck bordered by tree canopy and serviced with bird feeders. It provides an ideal spot for bird photography or bird watching from the comfort of the library.

Chaplin Nature Center

In winter you may see white-breasted nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers, American goldfinches, dark-eyed juncos, and northern cardinals. In summer ruby-throated hummingbirds frequent the feeders and eastern bluebirds use the nest boxes provided.

Chaplin Boardwalk/Stairway

The trailhead for exploring the area lies just behind the visitor center.  Since the building is located on the edge of a steep bluff, this boardwalk stairway provides a handy means of descent.  The view from the top platform of the stairway is level with the bottomland tree canopy, making it a great spot to look for warblers.

For the wildlife watcher, a visit to Chaplin Nature Center guarantees success!



JULY 14, SATURDAY, 8:30 a.m. - 3 p.m. BUTTERFLY COUNT
Help count and identify butterflies as part of a North American Butterfly Association official count. This one-day survey will count all the butterflies seen in a 15-mile diameter area. More experienced counters will be teamed up with novices, so everyone is welcome to help. For more information call CNC. Meet at the visitor's center at 8:30 a.m.

Take a walk on the wild side and discover some of nature's natural bounty. Participants will hike along the trails and identify some of the more common edible and poisonous plants. Advance registration required.


Visitor center, restrooms

Camping iconCamping not allowed.

Trail icon Wildlife Homes Trail (0.3 mile loop); Spring Creek Trail (0.5 mile loop); Lost Prairie Trail (0.7 mile loop), Bluff Trail (0.6 mile loop); Prairie Trail (0.8 mile loop); River Trail (1.9 mile loop)

Click here to get county birding lists for Kansas. Click the icon to find a birding list for Sumner County.

Find nearby Geocaches! Click the icon to locate nearby Geocaches

For more Wildlife Watching sites in the Flint Hills, click here Click here for more Wildlife Watching sites in the Flint Hills!

Chaplin Nature Center map

Directions: From the intersection of U.S. 77 and U.S. 166 in Arkansas City (50 miles south of Wichita), travel 3 miles west on U.S. 166, then north 2 miles on 31st Road, which turns west to become 272nd Road.  Signs are provided for assistance.

Location in Kansas

For a Google Map of this site, click here.

Ownership: The entity responsible for management of Chaplin Nature Center is the Wichita Audubon Society.  Contact them at (620) 442-4133 or by Email if you have specific questions about use or management of the site.  200 acres
Click here to visit their web site for more information on seasonal hours and scheduled programs.

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Funded by the Chickadee Checkoff Program
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Click here for a brochure!

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the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism.

Re-publication of site content in any form other than for personal use requires written permission.  If you are a Kansas resident, please assist with this and other wildlife viewing and conservation programs by contributing to the Chickadee Checkoff on your state tax form.

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Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism