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Visitor Activities

Bison at sunrise

Visitors are welcome year-round at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge.  There's something for everyone here, from a rainy-day trip through the exhibit hall to a hike or snowshoe on the trails, and from deer hunting to photographing native Iowa wildlife.  Each season brings new things to discover on the prairie, on your own or during a Ranger-led program.

 

 

  • Hunting

    Hunting2

    Hunting is permitted in designated areas at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, in accordance with all federal, state and Refuge specific regulations. Seasons and species that can be hunted are restricted on the Refuge. Each fall, a hunting brochure listing current seasons and regulations is available at the Visitor Center and all hunter parking lots; the brochure also serves as a permit. Please click below to see this year's brochure for the most up-to-date information.


    Neal Smith NWR has also prepared an Environmental Assessment to expand the existing hunting program on the refuge.  The final Environmental Assessment is available here, including a summary of the comments received from the public. The refuge's response to the comments are provided at the end.

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  • Wildlife Viewing

    Wildlife Viewing Elk

    Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge’s tallgrass prairie is home to a wide diversity of prairie wildlife, including mammals, birds, and insects. Our 5 mile auto tour, which travels directly through the bison and elk enclosure, provides visitors with intimate views of bison and elk. Unique grassland bird species such as northern harrier, short-eared owls, upland sandpipers, grasshopper sparrows, dickcissels, and Eastern and Western meadowlarks can be seen along Refuge roads and trails. During the summer, insects thrive on the prairie and can be easily seen around flowers in the butterfly garden next to the Visitor Center and along the trails.

  • Interpretation

    Interpretation Bison Program

    Interpretive programs include monthly public programs, scout programs and special events. All programs are free and open to the public.  Participation is a great way to learn more about Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge!

     

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  • Environmental Education

    Environmental Education Michelle

    Refuge staff lead environmental education programs and field trips for partner schools and partner teachers. Field trip experiences are also available for non-partner schools and teachers, however teachers and school staff are expected to lead their own activities during their visit. Refuge staff also offer environmental education workshops for adults. Teachers who attend a workshop receive training, field trip planning support, priority scheduling for field trips, and a copy of the entire Project Bluestem Curriculum. 

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  • Photography

    Photography Short-eared Owl

    Many of our most-photographed animals are grassland birds and large mammals. A favorite summer bird is the dickcissel, a small songbird frequently seen near the visitor center perched atop grass and flowers, singing for a mate. In winter, many photographers come to find the short-eared owl (Photo, at left, by Jason Murphy). These medium-sized owls are often seen perched on signposts or flying across the prairie. Bison and white-tailed deer are photographed year-round grazing on the prairie, while the elk are best seen in winter. Deer live throughout the Refuge, while the bison and elk are found only within their enclosure.

Page Photo Credits — Credit: USFWS
Last Updated: Oct 25, 2014
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