Butler County, Kansas

30 Years of Human Development

Collin Kile
ES 775 Final Project
Emporia State University


Butler County is located in the Flinthills of Kansas. It is the largest county in Kansas with an area of 3,745 square kilometers. El Dorado, with a population of approximately 13,000, is the largest community in the county and also serves as the county seat. Much of Butler County consists of grass covered hills, which are plentiful in oil as well as being used for cattle grazing. The Walnut River provides a well sized valley with fertile soil for farming.

El Dorado is most notable for its early 20th century oil boom. In 1915, oil was struck on a large scale just outside of the city. Eager to get their hands on this "black gold", many workers flooded the area to begin working in the oil field. From 1910 to 1920, Butler County saw an increase in population from 23,059 to 43,842. This was the largest population increase in a 10 year span that Butler County has ever seen. Following the next few decades after the oil boom, Butler County would see its population decrease up to the 1950's. Since 1960, the county has seen an increase in population every decade.

In the last four decades, Butler County has seen steady growth. Populations at the beginning of each of the last four decades are as follows: 1980= 44,785, 1990= 50,850, 2000= 59,482, 2010= 65,880. Butler County has experienced an increase in development mostly in the southwest portion of the county, where the urban sprawl of Wichita is slowly making its way into the county. In this project, the increase of human development within Butler County will be monitored over a 30 year period.


To begin this project, satellite imagery was downloaded from 1987, 1997, 2007, and 2017. Landsat 5 imagery was utilized for 1987, 1997, and 2007. For 2017, Landsat 8 OLI imagery was used. The imagery was retrieved from the USGS Global Visualization Viewer. Once downloaded, the files were in a compressed format. To uncompress the files, 7-Zip was used. Now in GeoTiff format, the files were imported into Idrisi and converted to Idrisi format. Next, each band was reduced in size to a general area of the image that included Butler County as well as portions of surrounding counties to make sure that all of Butler County was included. This was done using the "WINDOW" tool. False color composites were then produced using bands 2, 3, and 6 for each year. To track the change in human development, the "CLUSTER" tool was used. Once the clusters were finished, they were reclassified using the "RECLASS" tool. This created a bimodal data view, isolating human development from other land uses. Next, the false color composites and clusters were imported into ArcMap so they could be clipped to Butler County. In ArcMap, both clusters and composites were clipped to a Butler County shapefile. To find the area of the classification representing human developement, the number of pixels representing the class, or "count", was multiplied by the area of an individual pixel. In each year, the count was multiplied by 900, which was the area of an individual pixel for each respective year. Layouts for the false color composites as well as the results of the reclassified clusters were then produced in ArcMap.


The results of the clusters are displayed below. With the exception of 2007, growth of human development is illustrated. Using the same classes as the other three composites, I was unable to find an accurate representation of human development in 2007, so what I felt represented it best is displayed regardless. The large cluster in the center of the county is El Dorado. Another smaller cluster southwest of El Dorado represents Augusta. Clusters to the west of Augusta represent development spilling over from neighboring Sedgwick County, which contains the Wichita metro area.


Butler County has seen times of both population increase and decrease. During the the early 20th century oil boom, the county saw the population nearly double in a 10 year span. The next few decades to follow the boom however saw a population decrease. Since then, the county has seen a steady increase of population and will most likely continue to see an increase as the urban sprawl of Wichita continues to creep into the county.