About the Refuge
The refuge grounds are open daily sunrise to sunset; the visitor center is open daily (except for certain federal holidays) 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Bertrand steamboat museum collection is on display inside the visitor center.
- E-mail Contact for the visitor center can be found on this page.
- E-mail Contact for educators can be found on this page.
- E-mail Contact for the museum, can be found on this page.
- E-mail Contact for volunteering can be found on this page.
Summer Public Use Season
April 15-October 15:
DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge
(NWR) begins its fishing, boating, spring archery turkey, and hunting on Wednesday,
April 15, 2015. The auto tour road will be open including portions that were
closed during the migration periods. Visitors will be able to hike the nature trails,
fish, boat, bird watch, etc. Canoes and kayaks are also a great way to enjoy
the spring at the refuge.
and boating is permitted at DeSoto beginning on April 15, 2014. Anglers need
either an Iowa or Nebraska license and are reminded that minimum length limits
and creel limits are in effect. Trailered boats can be launched at Middle
Boat Ramp; hand launch (only) is permitted at the Bertrand Discovery area. Refer to the refuge regulations brochure for fishing and
gatheringon the refuge for personal
consumption only is permitted in the open areas of the refuge from April 15 to
October 14. See the refuge regulations brochure, found at the entrance kiosks and visitor center, for the map.
DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge offers excellent wildlife viewing opportunities.
A wide variety of migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, grassland birds, neotropical
migrants, mammals and many others can be seen at the refuge. Look for wildlife
from the DeSoto Visitor Center, from refuge roads and while hiking refuge
trails. You will find the largest concentrations of migrating birds in the
spring and fall.
DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge is located in the migratory bird corridor of the Missouri River floodplain and provides essential habitat for resident, migratory and endangered species. High quality floodplain forest, grassland, wetland, sandbar and riverine habitats support diverse and productive populations of migratory waterfowl, shorebirds and neotropical birds, as well as rare, threatened and endangered species including the pallid sturgeon, piping plover and least tern.
The refuge is a destination for people who want to explore the habitats and wildlife of this part of the Missouri River and get a glimpse of what pre-settlement Iowa and Nebraska may have looked like.
The refuge acquired its name from a historic bend on the
Missouri River. The bend was originally
named after the river town of DeSoto (incorporated in 1855), which provided a
steamboat landing and ferry crossing, promoted a railroad west, and was once
the county seat of Washington County, Nebraska.
The town of DeSoto prospered in the late 1850s and early 1860s, then
declined as residents moved on to the Colorado gold fields. The town was ultimately abandoned in the late
19th century when the Missouri River channel shifted leaving the town site
several miles west of the river, and a railroad crossing was established three
miles north in Blair, Nebraska.
In 1956 the Service made a preliminary investigation and
determined that the area had substantial potential benefits for wildlife. Coupled with a primary purpose of wildlife
conservation the refuge proposal offered extensive recreational benefits,
engendering additional local support, and appeared in the 1958 Congressional
Record as the “DeSoto–Bertrand Bend National Wildlife Refuge and Recreation
DeSoto NWR was established in March of 1958 with the approval
of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission with the dual intention of
providing for the needs of migratory birds and providing public recreation to
local communities. Today the physical
footprint of the refuge spans 8,365 acres.
DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge is a federal fee area and a valid entry permit is required to enter the refuge or travel on roads in the refuge. Daily entrance fees are $3.00 per vehicle. Fees are collected at the visitor center or self-service fee stations at entrances. Other valid entrance permits include: The DeSoto Refuge annual pass ($15.00), Federal Duck Stamp, and Federal Recreational Lands Passes including the Annual, Senior, Access, Military or Volunteer.
DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge
1434 316th Lane
Missouri Valley, IA 51555
Refuge phone: 712/388-4800