National Wildlife Refuge
|16450 NW 31 Place
Chiefland, F, FL 32626
Phone Number: 352-493-0238
|Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
|Canoeing, kayaking, biking, hiking or driving are all great ways to view the vast natural areas of Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge.|
Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge
Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1979, is located along the southern edge of the Big Bend region of Florida's west coast, approximately 50 miles southwest of Gainsville. This 54,000 acre refuge is one of the largest undeveloped river delta - estuarine systems in the United States and was established to protect natural ecosystems of the Suwannee River's lower reaches and coastal marsh, as it empties into the Gulf of Mexico.
This diverse mixture of uplands, freshwater, saltwater and their associated wetlands, creates a great variety of wildlife habitat and scenic vistas. Osprey and bald eagle nest in early spring, while graceful swallow-tailed kites arrive in March for breeding and remain through July. In March and April migrating shorebirds cover the oysterbars; thousands of knots, dowitchers, oystercatchers, sandpipers, turnstones, and plovers fatten up for their northward trip to their breeding grounds.
Wading birds are most abundant during the summer and they can be found feeding in the freshwater and salt marshes. White ibis, great, snowy, and cattle egrets along with great blue, little blue, green, and tricolored herons are among the birds that roost and nest on nearby Cedar Keys refuge. Rare Limpkins and endangered wood storks are occasionally seen prowling the water's edge during the warm months.
Alert boaters may see endangered Gulf Sturgeon jumping in the river. These prehistoric fish migrate from the Gulf of Mexico to the Suwannee River in the spring for spawning and remain there all summer. Manatees leave Crystal River springs, their winter haven, when the gulf waters warm and utilize the Suwannee River and its estuary from March through November. Seaturtles, mostly green, loggerhead and Ridley's utilize the rich Suwannee sound during the summer months but generally go unnoticed.
The beauty of the Suwannee river, with its hardwood lined banks where alligators loaf on exposed logs, long legged wading birds feed and otters play is a wonderful place for visitors to celebrate our National Wildlife Refuge System.
Getting There . . .
The refuge can be accessed from Dixie County road 351 out of Cross City, Dixie County road 349 out of Old Town and Levy County road 347 out of Chiefland. To reach the refuge office, which is located in Levy County: from Gainesville take State Road 26 to Trenton, then Highway 129 south to Chiefland, then U.S. 19 south for 1 mile to County Road 345 south for 6 miles to County Road 347. Go west on 347 for 12 miles to the refuge sign leading to the refuge office, a good first stop for a brochure and map of the area.
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Management Programs - The mission of the refuge is to protect and enhance the diverse natural ecosystem with its associated native wildlife, emphasizing threatened and endangered species and migratory birds.
Biological goals are prioritized to monitor endangered or sensitive species such as manatee, bald eagle, Gulf sturgeon, swallow-tailed kite, gopher tortoise, and colonial nesting birds. Artificial nest structures are provided for osprey, wood duck, and prothonotary warblers while roost boxes are erected for various bat species. Planting of native wiregrass is a long-term restoration project aimed at enhancing the survival and reproductive success of endangered indigo snakes and gopher tortoise.
Forest management activities center around restoring plant communities to pre-commercial forest industry conditions. Selective tree thinning is one method used to improve tree quality, understory diversity, and overall wildlife habitat. Much of the refuge's habitat is pyrogenic - that is, its plants and animals have developed adaptations to fire. Burning forest or marsh under controlled conditions helps to remove old plants -- replacing them with young succulent vegetation preferred by most wildlife species. Controlled burns reduce the chance of uncontrolled wildfire caused by lightening or human ignition.