The 14, 663 acre former Great Bend Great Bend Air to Ground Gunnery Range (AGGR) is located in the Blue Hills region of Kansas near the cities of Claflin, Great Bend, and Hoisington, Kansas. The Great Bend AGGR acreage is located in a shallow marsh in northern Barton County known as Cheyenne Bottoms. The basin lies between the Smoky Hill River and the Arkansas River. Prairie grasses, cultivated fields, mudflats with sparse vegetation, and water cover the ground surface at the Great Bend AGGR.
The former Great Bend AGGR acreage is now part of the Cheyenne Bottoms State Wildlife Area, managed by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism (DWPT). Wildlife management, hunting, bird watching, and other outdoor recreation are conducted at Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area. Dikes have been constructed to impound water in five pools. Pool 2 and Pool 5 are present within the MRS boundary. Hunting is only allowed in Pools 3 and 4, and a portion of Pool 2. Pools 1, 5, and the remaining portion of Pool 2 are refuge areas and closed to all activities. Shooting is not allowed on or from the dikes. In addition to waterfowl, other game (e.g., pheasant, quail, deer, etc.) may be legally taken at Cheyenne Bottoms. Canals and dams have been built to divert water from the nearby Arkansas River and West Walnut Creek to supplement water provided by two intermittent streams, Blood and Deception Creeks. Water levels in the pools are manipulated via pumps to manage the marsh for water birds. Each year, one or more pools are typically drained, and these drained pool areas are seeded to millet and/or wheat.
A portion of the acreage in the southwest corner of the Great Bend AGGR is leased to farmers by the Kansas DWPT. Oil production occurs within the Great Bend AGGR boundary. Land use within two miles of the Great Bend AGGR includes oil production, agriculture, residences, and transportation (railroad), in addition to wildlife area uses. In addition to the Kansas DWPT, the Nature Conservancy, Kansas Chapter, owns acreage in the northwest corner of the Great Bend AGGR.
The Great Bend AGGR was used as a machine gun range, rifle range, an AGGR, and a practice bombing range from 1943 until 1946, when it was recommended for surplus. The Small Arms Range Complex was used as a machine gun and rifle range for small arms training. In 1946, a Bomb and Shell Disposal Team reportedly found spent .50-caliber rounds and shell casings, but no evidence that ammunition larger than .50-caliber was used at the Small Arms Range Complex MRS was discovered.
The Small Arms Range Complex is a Munitions Response Site (MRS) project that covers an area of 1,272 acres, including the safety fans, within the former Great Bend AGGR. The range complex is located in the southwest portion of the Great Bend AGGR. The range complex was used as a machine gun and rifle range for small arms training. In 1946, a Bomb and Shell Disposal Team reportedly found spent .50-caliber rounds and shell casings, but no evidence that ammunition larger than .50-caliber was used at the Small Arms Range Complex MRS was discovered.
Since the 1950s, the area including the Small Arms Range Complex MRS has been owned and operated by the Kansas DWPT as the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area. A portion of the acreage in the southwest corner is leased to farmers by the DWPT. Scavenging for metal at ground surface and DWPT disking activities after military use have served as mechanisms to remove small arms debris over time. Records indicate that .30- and .45-caliber rounds may also be present.