There are many opportunities to enjoy wildlife observation and photography opportunties on Wheeler NWR. One of the best ways to view wildlife is to take a short walk on one of the five (5) designated nature trails (Atkeson Trail, Beaverdam Swamp Boardwalk Trail, Dancy Bottom Trail, Flint Creek or the Wildlife Observation Trail).
The Atkeson Trail, named after Tom Atkeson, a long-time manager of Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, is located just behind the Visitor Center. The Trail has a boardwalk crossing over a cypress swamp, then continuing through a wooded area. A bench located adjacent to a section of land where crops such as corn, wheat, and soybeans are grown is a good place to sit and listen for birds. Several varieties of plants and animals may be viewed from this trail. An outdoor classroom along the trail may be used by educators or families. Approximately twenty-five people can sit comfortably on the benches. The trail is well maintained and universally accessible. The Atkeson Trail opens and closes with the Visitor Center Schedule.
Flint Creek Trail
Flint Creek Trail is located on the north side of Highway 67, approximately 200 yards west of the Visitor Center entrance. This 1.5 mile scenic trail offers an opportunity to see various species of plant and animal life associated with an oak-hickory forest. Two boardwalks cross Flint Creek. For a short loop, take the first trail to the left after you cross the second bridge.
For a longer loop, continue straight ahead and pass the covered pavilion. Common trees including hickory, oak, red maple, sweetgum, yellow poplar, and dogwood create shade for most of the trail. Sassafras, witch hazel, grapevine, and greenbriers are common understory species. Chipmunks, squirrels, woodpeckers, wrens, and northern cardinals are commonly seen. Many different species of warblers can also be heard or seen during their spring and fall migrations. Although a universally accessible fishing pier is available, the trail past the boardwalk, might prove difficult for someone with special needs. The trail is open daily, daylight hours only.
Dancy Bottom Trail
Located in bottomland hardwoods near Flint Creek, this 2.5 mile round trip trail offers a wide variety of scenery. During winter months, waterfowl use the slough near the trail and can sometimes be seen. Deer, squirrels, rabbits, woodpeckers, and many other species of wildlife are often encountered along this trail. This is an unimproved trail and is not universally accessible. From the Visitor Center, go east on Highway 67 for 1.7 miles to the traffic-light at Indian Hills Road. Turn right. Go approximately 3.1 miles, turn right onto Red Bank Road. The short road to the parking area is located about 1.7 miles on the right just before the bridge over Flint creek. The trail is open daily, daylight hours only.
Beaverdam Swamp Boardwalk
This one mile trail is accessed from a Frontage Road located just off exit 5 on 1-565 traveling east towards Huntsville. Beaverdam Swamp Boardwalk trail crosses a swamp filled with some of the state’s largest water tupelo trees. Various species of frogs, turtles, small fish, snakes, and other reptiles and amphibians are often visible along the trail. Songbirds are common in the canopy as well.
Wildlife Observation Trail
The Wildlife Observation trail is located directly behind the Visitor Center. The Observation Building, at the end of the 200 yard trail, overlooks a waterfowl/wildlife display pool. During spring, summer, and fall, butterflies and hummingbirds are attracted to the flowers in the Backyard Wildlife Area. Several feeders are filled year-round to attract various species of birds including: chickadees, tufted titmice, finches, sparrows, northen cardinals, and bluejays. During winter, thousands of ducks,geese and sandhill cranes can be viewed comfortably from the Observation Building. With a microphone(allowing the sounds on the pond to be heard in the building) and spotting scopes, the observation building is certainly a must on any visit to the Refuge. The observation building opens and closes with the Visitor Center. The trail is well maintained and universally accessible.
To ensure that all visitors have an opportunity to enjoy the hiking trails, please follow these guidelines:
- Stay on marked trails to help prevent erosion and damage to plants.
- Leave all plants for others to enjoy.
- Keep all pets on a leash.
- Bicycles are not allowed on the trails.
- Do not litter. Pack it in, pack it out.
- To see more wildlife, be as quiet as possible.
- Insect repellent is advised spring through fall.
For more information call: (256) 350-6639