National Wildlife Refuge System

Mobile App for Refuges Free for One More Week

Nihoa millerbird

Quick: Where is your nearest national wildlife refuge? And what could you do there next weekend? Now there’s an app for that. And until April 1, you can still download it free of charge.

“Myrefuge,” a mobile application by Zaia Design, helps outdoor enthusiasts explore natural areas and learn what resources refuges offer. It features searchable maps and instant information on bird watching, trails and historic sites. The app showcases 59 of the country’s 556 national wildlife refuges, up from 42 at its December launch. The count is expected to continue to grow.

“MyRefuge” can be downloaded from iTunes: http://bit.ly/v3diSJ and appshopper: http://bit.ly/uKh1jg. After April 1, the app will cost $.99.

For each refuge on the app, detailed maps show trails, recreational facilities such as photo blinds, hunting blinds and fishing areas, and nearby public roads. The app tells viewers, for example, that the auto tour route through wildlife habitat on Charles M. Russell Refuge, MT, is 19 miles long and takes two to three hours to drive.  And that Canaan Valley Refuge, WV, contains some 20 hiking trails, identified by trail length and location. The app also tells you how near you are to any featured refuge.

You can also pick up highlights of a refuge’s history, culture or wildlife setting. The Lombard Ferry on Seedskadee Refuge, WY, you learn, ferried westward pioneers across the Green River in the mid-19th century. You can learn how Ridgefield Refuge, WA, honors its Chinookan heritage at its Cathlapotle Plankhouse and how Malheur Refuge, OR, preserves and interprets Civilian Conservation Corps structures on the refuge. Birding information is big at Bear River Refuge, UT. And there are tips on bear safety at Kenai Refuge, AK. 

Making Connections

Jim Kurth, chief of the Refuge System, part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the app is “one of many exciting new ways the Refuge System is finding to engage people, especially young people, in appreciating recreation in natural settings. “The Refuge System conserves our wildlife heritage,” said Kurth. “Our lives are all richer for making that connection.”

The MyRefuge app was conceived by Eugene Marino, cultural resources program manager for the Refuge System. “The idea is to give people a new way to learn about cultural resources and other activities we offer,” he said. National wildlife refuges not only conserve America’s wildlife habitat: they also preserve archaeological sites, museum collections of artifacts, and historic homes and lighthouses. More than 320 refuges offer hunting and fishing. Many also contain hiking and canoe trails.

Among refuges featured to date in MyRefuge are some from the West (for example, Don Edwards San Francisco Bay Refuge and Charles M. Russell Refuge, MT), the Midwest (Wichita Mountains Refuge, OK, and Minnesota Valley Refuge), the South (Pelican Island Refuge, FL) and Alaska (Kenai Refuge). Most are in the East (including Chincoteague Refuge, VA, and Rachel Carson Refuge, ME).

Last updated: March 23, 2012