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Parker River
National Wildlife Refuge


6 Plum Island Turnpike
Newburyport, MA   01950
E-mail: fw5rw_prnwr@fws.gov
Phone Number: 978-465-5753
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
http://parkerriver.fws.gov
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  Overview
Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
Parker River National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1942 primarily to provide feeding, resting, and nesting habitat for migratory birds. Located along the Atlantic Flyway, the refuge is of vital stopover significance to waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds during pre- and postbreeding migratory periods.

The refuge occupies in part, the southern three-fourths of Plum Island, an 8 mile long barrier island near Newburyport, Massachusetts. Excellent wildlife-oriented recreational and educational opportunities are available with visitor facilities and programs provided to enhance your experience.

The refuge consists of 4,662 acres of diverse upland and wetland habitats including sandy beach and dune, shrub/thicket, bog, swamp, freshwater marsh, saltwater marsh and associated creek, river, mud flat, and salt panne. These and other refuge habitats support varied and abundant populations of resident and migratory wildlife including more than 300 species of birds and additional species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and plants.


Getting There . . .
The refuge is located approximately 35 miles north of Boston. From Interstate 95 take exit 57 and travel east on Route 113, then continue straight onto Route 1A South to the intersection with Rolfe's Lane for a total of 3.5 miles. Turn left onto Rolfe's Lane and travel 0.5 miles to its end. Turn right onto the Plum Island Turnpike and travel 2.0 miles crossing the Sgt. Donald Wilkinson Bridge to Plum Island. Take your first right onto Sunset Drive and travel 0.5 miles to the refuge entrance.

The refuge headquarters/visitor center is located on the west end of Plum Island Turnpike. The current entrance to the headquarters/visitor center is off Rolfes Lane about 0.4 miles from Route 1A. In the summer of 2007, a new entrance will be completed with access off the Plum Island Turnpike.


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Wildlife and Habitat

Located along the Atlantic Flyway, the refuge is of vital stopover significance to waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds during pre- and postbreeding migratory periods. The refuge consists of 4,662 acres (1,883 hectares) of diverse upland and wetland habitats including sandy beach and dune, shrub/thicket, bog, swamp, freshwater marsh, salt marsh and associated creek, river, mud flat, and salt panne. These and other refuge habitats support varied and abundant populations of resident and migratory wildlife including more than 300 species of birds and additional species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and plants.

The Refuge's six-mile long sandy beach provides nesting habitat for the piping plover and least tern, both federally threatened species. The beach is also frequented by migrating shorebirds such as sandpipers, black-bellied plovers, and ruddy turnstones in the late summer and fall. Harbor seal pups often rest on the beach. In the winter, sea ducks such as eider and scoter feed and rest in the ocean close to the Refuge beach.

The maritime forest that nestles behind the dunes is home to coyotes, raccoons, skunks, short-tailed weasels, white-tailed deer, woodcock, short eared and long eared owls, as well as a multitude of both nesting and migrating songbirds.

Three freshwater impoundments provide feeding and nesting habitat for waterfowl such a black duck, mallard, and green-winged teal, as well as marsh birds such as black crowned night heron and American bittern. Migrating shorebirds, such as yellowlegs, sanderlings, and dowitchers, and great and snowy egrets gather in the salt pannes, shallow open pools in the salt marsh, to feed on worms, insects, fish, and crabs. Other birds nest in the salt marsh, such as the saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow, Nelson's sharp-tailed sparrow, and the northern harrier. Peregrine falcon, merlin, and a variety of hawks search for prey over the salt pannes and freshwater impoundments. Osprey raise their young on man-made platforms, feeding on fish in the nearby bay. With such a wide variety of species within close viewing proximity, the Refuge is known as one of the top-ten birding sites in the country.

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History
Parker River National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1942 primarily to provide feeding, resting, and nesting habitat for migratory birds.

Plum Island has provided food and recreation for people for hundreds of years. People have always enjoyed hunting, fishing, shell fishing, and berry picking on the island. These activities, when compatible, are still allowed on Parker River Refuge today. In the early 1800s the island became popular with colonials for bird watching. In 1929, 600 acres on the island were designated as the Annie H. Brown Wildlife Sanctuary. As the island was developing at the same time into a beach resort area, this designation as a sanctuary was a turning point for the future of wildlife in the area.

In 1942, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acquired 4,600 acres of Plum Island (including the Sanctuary) and the surrounding salt marsh and established the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge was established to provide habitat specifically for the black duck, whose population was declining. Conservationist Rachel Carson in her "Conservation in Action" series called Parker River Refuge "New England's most important contribution to the national effort to save the waterfowl of North America." The Refuge was already an important winter feeding site for black ducks, who gathered in large flocks in the salt marsh to feed on the salt grass, Spartina, seeds.

Soon after establishment, employees created three freshwater impoundments by diking off the salt marsh to increase production of waterfowl food and to provide more nesting areas for the black duck. Throughout the sixty-five years of the Refuge's history, the Fish and Wildlife Service has adapted its management style to meet the needs of a wide variety of species.

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    Recreation and Education Opportunities
Environmental Education
Fishing
Hunting
Interpretation
Photography
Wildlife Observation
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Management Activities
A variety of management practices are in use at the refuge to enhance its value to wildlife. Among these are predator, pest plant and mosquito control, upland habitat maintenance, bird nesting structures, salt marsh restoration, and water level manipulation. In addition, the refuge, conservation organizations, and universities conduct on-site biological investigations to further understanding of wildlife and their habitats. Examples include bird banding studies and wildlife population surveys.

Each year the refuge beach is closed to all public entry beginning April 1 to provide undisturbed nesting and feeding habitat for the piping plover, a Federally threatened shorebird species. A small section may remain open for public use at Lot 1. Portions of the beach not being used by the birds may be reopened after July 1. Typically all sections are reopened by mid-late August.