Summer Means Adventure in the National Wildlife Refuge System
A ruby-throated hummingbird samples the nectar of a cardinal flower at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum in Pennsylvania.
|Credit: Bill Buchanan / USFWS|
You don’t have to go far to adventure this summer. Thrills abound on national wildlife refuges — along with views of creatures you don’t see every day. Paddle trips, fishing rodeos, butterfly counts and scavenger hunts in the night sky are just some of the adventures planned. See a complete calendar of refuge special events.
The National Wildlife Refuge System, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is the premier system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve America’s fish, wildlife and plants. There is a National Wildlife Refuge within an hour’s drive of most major U.S. cities. Here is a sampling of upcoming refuge events:
Take a Guided Refuge Kayak Tour
Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through September, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. — Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, TX
Learn about refuge wildlife and habitats while you paddle sit-on-top kayaks on the Laguna Madre adjoining the Laguna Atascosa Refuge. No experience needed. Tour fee ($30 per adult; $25 for ages 12 and under) covers equipment, guides, transportation to and from the visitor center and light refreshments. Tours run about two hours. Reservations are required: 956-748-3607. All proceeds benefit the Friends of Laguna Atascosa Refuge. Learn about Laguna Atascosa Refuge. Learn about the Friends of Laguna Atascosa Refuge.
Amateur Photo Contest
Now through August 31 — Seney National Wildlife Refuge, MI
Enter your refuge nature photos in a contest. Photos are meant to encourage people to visit the refuge. The photos will be displayed at the visitor center in September and October and on the Seney Natural History Association’s Flickr page. See complete contest rules. Learn about Seney Refuge.
Take a Refuge Tram Tour
Weekdays 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.; Weekends, 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. — Patuxent Research Refuge, MD
Daily half-hour tram tours of the refuge run through mid-August, beginning at the National Wildlife Visitor Center. Tickets ($3 adults; $2 seniors; $1 youngsters 12 and under) are sold at the bookstore in the visitor center lobby. Learn about Patuxent Refuge.
Family Canoe Tours
Wednesdays and Fridays, July and August, 10 a.m. to noon — Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, NC
Enjoy a kid-friendly exploration of the marshes, islands and creeks of Pamlico Sound via New Inlet. $25 per person; $15 for kids 12 and under. Reservations are required: 252-216-9464. Learn about Pea Island Refuge.
Wednesdays and Saturdays in July, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. — Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, CO
Experience the sights and sounds of the refuge on a guided, family‐friendly wildlife viewing
tour. Bring binoculars and cameras. Reservations are required: 303‐289‐0930. Learn about Rocky Mountain Arsenal Refuge.
Take a “Wildlife Wednesday” Tour
Wednesdays in July and August, 7 to 9:30 p.m. — Seney National Wildlife Refuge, MI
Join a guided auto tour along Marshland Wildlife Drive, the Fishing Loop and into the backcountry. Once refuge vehicle seating is full, participants drive their own vehicles (caravan style) and use a radio to communicate with guides. Learn about Seney Refuge.
Take a Summer Howling Safari
July 1-August 31, Wednesdays 7:30 p.m. — Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, NC
Hear endangered red wolves and learn about them at the only place in the world where they still exist in the wild! Meet at Creef Cut Wildlife Trail parking lot. Bring flashlights and insect repellent. Registration is required: 252-216-9464. Programs typically last about two hours. Cost: $7 per person; age 12 and under, free. No pets allowed. Learn about Alligator River Refuge.
Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge, OR
Two-hour interpretive trips are a great way to experience the refuge by water. To reserve a spot, contact Lindsay Raber at 541-867-4550 or Lindsay_raber@fws.gov.
Wednesday, July 6, 5 p.m.
Thursday, July 7, 5:30 p.m.
Friday, July 8, 6 p.m.
Sunday, July 10, 9 a.m.
Learn about Siletz Bay Refuge.
Enjoy a Nature Lecture Series
Wednesdays in July, the first four Wednesdays in August, 7 p.m. — Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, WA
Get “In Touch With Nature” at the Nisqually Refuge Visitor Center auditorium.
July 13 — Puget Sound Earthquakes
July 20 — Wildlife Tracking: Adventure and Discovery
July 27 — Interconnected Planet and People
August 3 — From Field to Studio: Experience Local Birds
August 10 — Pacific Feast: Food from Field to Forest
August 17 — Monitoring the Nisqually Delta
August 24 — Understanding Grizzly Bears
See a complete schedule of talks and speakers. Learn about Nisqually Refuge.
Second Sunday Series Talk: “David Douglas Among the Peoples of the Lower Columbia, 1825-1833”
Sunday, July 10, 12:30 p.m. — Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, WA
Scottish naturalist David Douglas relied on the hospitality of local people throughout the Pacific Northwest for his collections. Learn how Chinookan families on the lower Columbia and north Willapa Bay guided and fed him, shared their knowledge of the landscape, and created artifacts that he bought and sent back to England. Kids activities will run from 12 to 3:30 p.m. Starting at 1:30 p.m., enjoy tastings from a traditional sturgeon bake. Event takes place in the Cathlapotle Plankhouse, in the Carty Unit. Learn about Ridgefield Refuge.
Twilight Tram Tour
Tuesday, July 12, 7:15 to 8:15 p.m. — Patuxent Research Refuge, MD
Enjoy a 45-minute guided tour of Patuxent Research Refuge on an all-electric, open-air tram. View wildlife and their habitats while learning how the land has changed over time and how Patuxent is managing habitats for wildlife. Tickets are $4 for adults, $3 for seniors over 55, and $2 for children under 12. Please bring exact change. Space is limited. Learn about Patuxent Refuge.
History of Nestucca Bay
Sunday, July 14, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. — Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge, OR
Join the president of the Tillamook County Historical Society to discover the history and culture at Nestucca Bay. Sturdy walking/hiking shoes are recommended.
Learn about Nestucca Bay Refuge.
Friday, July 15, 8:30 – 10:30 p.m. — Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, WA
Enjoy a night hike along the Oaks to Wetland Trail in the Carty Unit. Listen for owls hooting, coyotes howling and strange rustlings in the brush. To register, call Jill Peoples at
360-887-3883. Bring a flashlight, binoculars, bug repellant. Learn about Ridgefield Refuge.
Invasive Species, So What?
Saturday, July 16, 7 p.m. — Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, WV
Some are pretty enough to put in the garden. What’s the problem with them?
Learn about Canaan Valley Refuge.
Saturday, July 16, 1 to 2:30 p.m. — Patuxent Research Refuge, MD
Join a refuge naturalist on a search for reptiles and amphibians. Learn about Patuxent Refuge.
Enjoy Free Music Inspired by Nature
Friday, July 8, Friday July 15, and Friday, July 29, 3 to 3:30 p.m. — Jackson Hole Visitor Center, WY
The National Elk Refuge pairs up with the Grand Teton Music Festival to offer free short programs of music inspired by nature. The music will be performed by the Festival’s resident brass quintet on the lawn of the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center at 532 N. Cache Street in Jackson. Talk with roving naturalists on the Visitor Center’s upper viewing deck before the performance to learn about the National Elk Refuge. A spotting scope, binoculars and field guides will be available to help you observe and identify nearby birds and wildlife. Naturalists offer informal interpretive talks and information from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. Learn about National Elk Refuge.
Native Plant Garden
Saturday, July 9, 9 a.m. to noon — Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, NJ
Tend a native plant garden. Plan, plant, weed, mulch and transplant. Tools will be provided. No experience necessary. Optional brown bag lunch. Learn about Great Swamp Refuge.
Bike the Refuge
Sunday, July 24, 9 to 11 a.m. — Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, CO
Roll past the scenic wetlands and prairies with a naturalist. Reservations: 303‐289‐0930.
Helmets required. Fat, puncture proof tires recommended. Learn about Rocky Mountain Arsenal Refuge.
Wetlands Restoration: The 50-Year Journey
Sunday, July 24, 11 a.m. to noon — Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, CA
Follow the progress of the largest wetlands restoration project on the West Coast. Learn about the plan to restore a mix of wetlands habitats to the South Bay. Program will begin in the Alviso Environmental Education Center, then move outside via an easy 0.25-mile trail to a view of the salt ponds.
Learn about Don Edwards San Francisco Bay Refuge.
Nature Tots: Lady Bugs, Lady Bugs
Thursday, July 28, 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 2 p.m. — Patuxent Research Refuge, MD
Ages 3-4. Search for lady bugs and learn all about them through songs and stories. Learn about Patuxent Refuge.
Hummingbird Banding Workshop
Saturday, July 30, 7 to 11:30 a.m. — Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, NM
Help band hummingbirds and record their measurements, conditions, sex and age. Sharpen your hummingbird ID skills. Call 575-835-1828 for reservations. Learn about Bosque del Apache Refuge.
Blue Goose Conservation Day
Friday, August 12, 5 to 8:30 p.m. — Audubon National Wildlife Refuge, ND
Spend a family-oriented evening learning about hunting, fishing, wildlife conservation and outdoor skills. Kids receive door prizes and educational materials. A picnic dinner will be served. No pre-registration required. Learn about Audubon Refuge.
Enjoy Greenwing Day
Saturday, August 13, 8 a.m. to noon — McNary National Wildlife Refuge, WA
Learn to band a duck, identify waterfowl, call geese and ducks and retrieve ducks with a Labrador. Members of Ducks Unlimited and the Richland Rod and Gun Club will teach youth about wildlife conservation in this popular annual event. Learn about McNary Refuge.
Night Sky Party
Saturday, August 13, 8:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. — Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, CA
Environmental Education Center, Alviso
Join amateur astronomers and learn about constellations. Make a star chart and then venture outside to view the night sky through a telescope. Afterwards, warm up with some hot chocolate. Bring your own binoculars or spotting scopes if you have them. Reservations are needed: 408-262-5513 ext. 102. Learn about Don Edwards San Francisco Bay Refuge.
Shorebird Field Trip and Workshop
Saturday, August 13, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. — Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, DE
Join author and bird expert Kevin Karlson on a morning field trip to learn a simple approach to shorebird ID. Then take an indoor afternoon workshop to apply this approach to all bird families. Registration required. Call 302-653-6872. Learn about Bombay Hook Refuge.
Prairie Fun Day
Saturday, August 14, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. — Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge, MN
Collect prairie seed. ID plants and waterfowl. Enjoy a GPS scavenger hunt; a nature photography workshop; demonstrations of prescribed fire equipment; dip netting for aquatic bugs; sweep netting for prairie insects; and games. A picnic lunch will be served at noon. Call the Wetland District office at 218-847-4431 for directions. Learn about Hamden Slough Refuge and the Detroit Lakes Wetland Management District.
Take a Summer Bird Walk
Sunday, August 14, 1 p.m. — Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, WV
Learn about birds found on the refuge in summer. Learn about Canaan Valley Refuge.
Valley Vibes: Local Butterflies
Saturday, August 20, 7 p.m. — Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, WV
What butterflies are you likely to see in Tucker County? Are there rare butterflies to look out for? Learn about Canaan Valley Refuge.
Sunday, August 21, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. — Seney National Wildlife Refuge, MI
Help collect and tag monarch butterflies before they fly to their winter grounds in Mexico. After an orientation session, participants will be in the field for about three hours. Learn about Seney Refuge.
Little Things Rule the World
Saturday, August 27, 7:30 a.m. — Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, NM
Insect species outnumber all other kinds of animals combined. Learn about the fascinating world of insects and some of their extraordinary survival strategies. Go into the field to observe several species present at the refuge. Bring close-focusing binoculars, as well as sunscreen and mosquito repellent. To reserve, call 575-835-1828. Learn about Bosque del Apache Refuge.
Amateur Photo Contest
Through Aug. 31 — Seney National Wildlife Refuge, MI
Adults and youth photographers may submit up to five photos meant to encourage refuge visitation. Winning photos will be displayed at the visitor center in September and October and on Seney Natural History Association’s Flickr page. See contest categories and rules. Learn about Seney Refuge.
Fall Stirs the Senses on National Wildlife Refuges
Summer’s winding down, but not the excitement on national wildlife refuges. Fall is a season of color and drama as species prepare to migrate south or hunker down for the cold months ahead. Events on refuges capture that excitement.
Saturday, September 10, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. — Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge, OR
Join members of the Audubon Society of Lincoln City for a bird-watching
hike. Learn about Nestucca Bay Refuge.
Saturday, September 10, 9 a.m. to noon — McNary National Wildlife Refuge, WA
Learn to geocache with GPS units. Then walk the nature trail and find items on your list. Turn in your list for a prize. Learn about McNary Refuge.
A Scavenger Hunt in the Night Sky
Saturday, September 17, 7 p.m. — Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, NM
Look for a spiral arm, a globular cluster, a red giant, a swan, a dolphin, a teapot and a black hole on this unique scavenger hunt. Join amateur astronomers in using the naked eye, binoculars and telescopes to find wonders in the sky. Prizes will be awarded in three age groups. Call 575-835-1828 for reservations. For ages 8 and up. Limited to 35 people. Learn about Bosque del Apache Refuge.
Refuge Self Guided Auto Tour Drive
Saturday, September 17, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. OH
Drive through seven miles that are normally closed to the public. At the refuge entrance, pick up a guide that explains refuge habitat, management techniques and where to look for wildlife. Tours may be canceled in inclement weather. Learn about Ottawa Refuge.
Saturday, September 17, 7 p.m. — Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, WV
Bats are among the creatures that inhabit the valley. Learn why they’re important. Learn about Canaan Valley Refuge.
Guided Bird Walk
Sunday, September 18, 8 a.m. — Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, MD
Join an expert birder on a guided bird-watching expedition. See the many species of birds that live in and migrate through the refuge. Bring binoculars and dress for the weather. Walks may last two to four hours. Learn about Blackwater Refuge.
Bird Feeder Workshop (Ages 4-18)
Thursday, September 22, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. — Audubon National Wildlife Refuge, ND
Use pre-cut lumber to build two types of bird feeders – a fruit feeder for orioles and a tray feeder for a variety of birds. Learn about different types of birds that use the feeders, as well as types of seed and fruit that will attract certain birds. Pre-registration is required: 701-442-5474 ext. 110. Learn about Audubon Refuge.
National Public Lands Day
Saturday, September 24 — Many refuges
Many refuges will invite volunteers to help clean and enhance refuge property, as part of a national celebration of Public Lands Day. See what’s planned at a refuge near you by using the refuge finder tool or check event calendar listings as the date draws nearer.
Fall Color Float
Sunday, October 2, 11 a.m. — Seney National Wildlife Refuge, MI
Join refuge staff for a four- to five-hour canoe/kayak trip down the Manistique River as leaves are changing color. Pack a lunch, dress for the weather and pre-register. Bring your own boat or rent one from a local outfitter. Call Sara Hollerich for more details: 906-586-9851 ext. 16. Inclement weather date: October 9. Local outfitters in Germfask offer canoe and kayak rentals as well as shuttle service. Learn about Seney Refuge.
Attend a Birding Festival
October 16-22 — J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, FL
Attend “Ding” Darling Days birding and eco-festival. Learn about Ding Darling Refuge.
National Wildlife Refuge Week
October 10 through 16 — Many refuges will host special events to mark the occasion.
See what’s planned at a refuge near you by using the refuge finder tool or check event calendar listings as the date draws nearer.
Take a Howling Safari
Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, NC
Free Saturday howlings (no registration required)
October 15, 6 p.m. Wolf Awareness Week
October 29, 6 p.m. - Howl-O-Ween
December 10, 4 p.m. - Holiday Howl
Hear endangered red wolves and learn about them at the only place in the world where they still exist in the wild! Meet at Creef Cut Wildlife Trail parking lot. Bring flashlights and insect repellent. Programs typically last about two hours. No pets allowed. Learn about Alligator River Refuge.
Halloween Adventure: The Wild Night Life of the Refuge
Friday, October 28, listed times — Audubon National Wildlife Refuge, ND
Pre-school through grade 4: From 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Grades 5-7: From 7 to 9 p.m.
Kids are invited out for an evening of fun and learning about the animals that are active at night – bats, owls, coyotes and creepy crawlers. Bring a flashlight. Snacks provided. Pre-registration is required: 701-442-5474 ext. 110. Learn about Audubon Refuge.
Michigan's Junior Duck Stamp Winners
Wednesday, November 2, 7 p.m. — Green Point Environmental Learning Center, Saginaw, MI
Becky Goche, visitor services manager at Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge and Michigan coordinator of the national Junior Duck Stamp competition, will showcase the 2011 winners. The competition was open to students ages 5 to 18. Admission: $2; free for Friends of Shiawassee Refuge. Learn about Shiawassee Refuge.