National Wildlife Refuge System

Necedah Refuge, WI, Celebrates 75 Years

Necedah Refuge hosts the world's largest population of the endangered Karner blue butterfly.
Credit: Phil Delphey
Necedah Refuge partners with several nonprofit organizations working to restore populations of whooping cranes.
Credit: Operation Migration

March 19 - Necedah National Wildlife Refuge is nestled in an area of central Wisconsin that early homesteaders called the Great Wisconsin Swamp. A mosaic habitat of sedge meadow, savanna, prairie and pine-oak forest, the refuge is home to ringed boghaunter dragonflies, whooping cranes, trumpeter swans, wolves, Karner blue butterflies, badgers and red-headed woodpeckers. 

Necedah, which means  “land of yellow waters” in the Ho-Chunk language, has one of the largest savanna restorations taking place in Wisconsin. The restorations are invaluable to the continued survival of the state-threatened Blanding’s turtle; federally endangered Karner blue butterfly and whooping crane; red-headed woodpecker, golden-winged warbler and bobolink.  The refuge was established in 1939 and for nearly all of the years since has been remaking prairie, savanna and forest habitat especially for waterfowl. 

The refuge successfully reintroduced Canada geese into the wild in 1939, wild turkeys in 1952, mallards in the 1960s, trumpeter swans in 1994, and is currently working to restore an experimental population of whooping cranes. 

Necedah Refuge also has the world’s largest population of the Karner blue butterfly, whose pale blue markings make it stand out among the purple lupine flowers on which the butterfly is entirely dependent.  You can see these butterflies along the Lupine Loop Trail, especially May through August.  More about this endangered butterfly here.

Funding Funding Funding
The Civilian Conservation Corps restored wetlands and built an observation tower at Necedah Refuge in its early days. Now Youth Conservation Corps team members work on the refuge each summer. At one time, Canada geese were hunted almost to extinction. Necedah Refuge helped restore these geese populations by creating nests and desirable habitat. Necedah Refuge in Wisconsin has been protecting, banding and monitoring waterfowl since it was first established in 1939. The earlier photo is from the 1960s.

Last updated: March 20, 2014