National Wildlife Refuge System
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Cyclists enjoy the trails at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware
Cyclists enjoy the trails at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia.
Credit: Ossana Wolff, USFWS

Free-Wheeling Birding

Call it multisporting or call it fun. But whatever you call it, bicycling and birding make for a natural way to enjoy America's Great Outdoors (http://www.doi.gov/americasgreatoutdoors/). Some National Wildlife Refuges make it easy for visitors to give it a whirl, right at the peak of spring migration.  Bicycling offers a quiet and healthy way to see and observe wildlife. Here are three refuges that encourage pedaling:

  • J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Florida: The refuge has nine miles of road and paved shared use paths and four miles of shellrock or dirt trails open to cyclists. Several bike paths lead to the refuge. Bicycle rentals are available nearby. During "snowbird season" (October/November through April/May), visitors can take advantage of frequent volunteer–led bicycle birding tours on the refuge, where birds and other wildlife are somewhat acclimated to people on bicycles. http://www.fws.gov/dingdarling/ or 239-472-1100

  • Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, California: The refuge offers more than 30 miles of bikeable trails and roads through a variety of habitats, including salt marsh, managed ponds, salt ponds, mudflats, bay, uplands and sloughs. Wildlife visible from these trails includes wading birds, waterfowl, shorebirds, pelicans, raptors, passerines, ground squirrels, rabbits and the occasional garter snake and lizard. An estimated 38,000 cyclists use the refuge each year. http://www.fws.gov/desfbay/ or 510-792-0222

  • Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia: Cyclists can use seven miles of trails and roads, including the Woodland Trail (1.6 miles), Black Duck Trail (1 mile), Swan Cove Trail (0.5 miles) and the Wildlife Loop (3.2 miles), which opens to car traffic after 3:00 pm. A bike trail also runs most of the way to the beach alongside Beach Road. Trails go through wetland, maritime forest, shrub, and dune beach habitat. Bicycling is allowed year-round when the refuge is open; during the sika and white-tailed deer hunt season, some areas are closed to ensure public safety. http://www.fws.gov/northeast/chinco/ or 757-336-6122

And if you're real gung-ho, you can take it further, to the 27th annual World Series of Birding (http://www.birdcapemay.org/wsob.shtml) to be held on Saturday, May 15 in Cape May, New Jersey, just down the road from the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge (http://www.fws.gov/northeast/capemay/). Teams of birders, many on bike, see or hear as many species of birds as possible over a 24–hour period. The teams typically start up north and end the day in bird rich Cape May. This year, the contest will award the "Carbon Footprint Cup" for the highest number of species found for those who walk, run, bike, kayak and even skateboard, but you cannot use fuel driven vehicles.


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