Within the well-mowed-lawn look of the shortgrass prairie are found playa lakes, the most important wetlands you’ve never heard about. Playa lakes, (shallow, usually round basins with clay floors) lie in the lowest points of watersheds and hold water only after rainfall or runoff from the surrounding prairie. Playas’ natural wet-dry cycles support a diverse plant community as well as specialized plankton and aquatic insects.
These high levels of productivity make playas vital wintering and stop over places for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds such as long-billed curlews, greater yellow legs, black-necked stilts, and American avocets. When you travel the playa lake loop you are experiencing a wetland-type incredibly unique- 95% of the world’s playa lakes lie on the western Great Plains! Prairie dog towns also located within this loop support a unique set of wildlife species including burrowing owls, badgers, swift fox, and ferruginous hawks.
On the southern edge of the loop is a captivating view from the dam of Optima Lake and the wildlife using this very shallow lake.