By Heather Dewar, USFWS
You’re in on America’s best-kept secret. You know there’s a national wildlife refuge in just about every corner of America, embracing every kind of landscape -- from coral reefs to mountaintop glaciers.
You know the nation’s 560 wildlife refuges offer outdoor adventures and natural spectacles so extraordinary, you’ll remember them for life.
You know refuges are places where you can quietly let the peace of nature seep into your spirit, or take a challenging trek that brings you home dusty, tired, and elated.
Or you can join our work; experience the deep satisfaction of planting a tree, helping a baby turtle reach the sea, or teaching a child how to tag a butterfly and set it free.
Now that you know, you’ll want to get in the game. Here’s how:
- Whether you’re looking for an easy hike, a boardwalk accessible to all, or a back country adventure, our searchable hiking guide has detailed info about each trail, including length, grade and highlights of the trip. Don’t miss these awesome autumn trails rich in scenery and wildlife.
- If paddling’s your passion, these refuge water trails offer everything from short, gentle guided paddles to back country trips in watery wildernesses teeming with birds and other creatures.
- Many of the country’s best places to photograph wildlife are on refuges, with viewpoints and blinds designed with photographers in mind. If you’re a beginner, contact your local refuge. Some refuges offer inexpensive classes or photography club outings.
- Anglers, want to know where to find your favorite quarry? On our fishing guide you can click the pic of your favorite species and learn the best spots. Hunters, you can search by species on our hunting page. Or search both pages by state, and get up to date on the latest refuge hunting and fishing regulations.
Ready for something new? Find unique events – like winter sleigh rides and nighttime “howling safaris” with wild wolves – on our searchable special events page.
Want to get your hands dirty for nature? Visit our volunteering page. You’ll find ways to make a difference in all 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Some refuges even offer short-term living space to seasonal volunteers.
There’s a refuge within an hour’s drive of most major cities. So there’s probably a refuge near you that could use your talents. When you join a Refuge Friends group, you get special opportunities to see behind the scenes, take part in conservation work and meet kindred spirits. And you know you’re doing your part to protect our natural heritage and share it with future generations.
Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana is the perfect place to see autumn colors. (Photo: Scott Whitlock, Creative Commons)
If your experiences inspire you to make conservation your life’s work, we’ve got career information that runs the gamut from summer jobs for high school students to fellowships for graduate students in law, business or science.
If you have a passion for nature … if you’re ready to follow Steve Jobs’ advice and “make a dent in the universe” … now is the time. And the National Wildlife Refuge System is the place. Join us in America’s Great Outdoors!
Heather Dewar is a writer-editor in the Visitor Services & Communications Division of the National Wildlife Refuge System