Construction is scheduled to resume in late April on the project that will add another 1½ miles of walking trails to the new Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge Visitor Center on Brice Prairie. Construction began in late October last year and was suspended in early December with the onset of winter.In addition to the trails, two small parking lots are also under construction and will be completed. Both parking lots are located on the Refuge along County Road ZB. One parking lot is located directly across from an existing public walkdown that provides access to Lake Onalaska. The second will provide parking for a future overlook of Lake Onalaska.Among the tasks that will completed in the upcoming weeks include adding gravel surface to about ½-mile of trail and paving another ¼-mile section of trail, installing curb and gutter at both parking lots and paving them, landscaping, and constructing a kiosk and notice board at the parking lots.Construction is expected to be completed by the end of May, conditions permitting.These new facilities will be accessible as defined in the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).Funding for the project was provided by a grant from the Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byway Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Transportation Program Funds.The general contractor is McHugh Excavating and Plumbing, Inc. of Onalaska, Wisc.For safety reasons, the existing section of walking/bike trail will be closed while construction is ongoing.For more information, contact the La Crosse District Office at (608) 779-2399 or visit the new visitor center, located at N5727 County Road Z, Onalaska, WI. Current visitor center hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The Refuge’s webpage can be found at: http://fws.gov/refuge/upper_mississippi_river/* * * * * * *The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge is the most visited refuge in the United States. The refuge extends 261 miles along the Upper Mississippi River from Wabasha, Minn. to Rock Island, Ill., protecting and preserving habitat for migratory birds, fish, and a variety of other wildlife.In addition to being the most visited refuge in the country, the “Upper Miss” Refuge has the added complexity of a major navigation system, including 11 locks and dams, within its boundary. It is also a world-class fish and wildlife area which harbors 306 species of birds; 119 species of fish; more than 300 active bald eagle nests; thousands of heron and egret nests; spectacular concentrations of canvasback ducks, tundra swans, and white pelicans; and several threatened or endangered species
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A year round resident on the refuge however numbers soar during the winter. Look below locks and dams where the river is not frozen. Aerial displays and pair bonding are best viewed from January through March. In winter, over 1,000 bald eagles grab fish,ducks or coots in the open water.