Newsroom Midwest Region

Celebrating the future and appreciating the past

Restoring habitat along the Missouri River for 25 years

September 29, 2017

Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.
Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.

As Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge celebrates its 25th anniversary, we wanted to take a moment to recognize this restoration success story. Land managers, hydrologists and biologists work together to restore habitat and bring a Missouri River gem back for hunters, anglers, birders and all recreationalists to enjoy. The refuge provides critical feeding, resting and spawning habitat for endangered pallid sturgeons and a wealth of other wildlife.

Located along the Missouri River, the refuge was established in 1992 to restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat along the river floodplain. This 4,040-acre refuge gets its name from a restored side channel of the Missouri River known as Boyer Chute. Chutes, or channels, are part of the natural meander of some rivers as they move across the landscape.

Given the high amount of freight that moved up and down the river in the late 1930s, chutes like these were seen as bad for business. Boyer Chute was blocked in 1937 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make navigation on the river easier. This unintentionally had negative impacts on the surrounding wildlife habitat.

Restoring hunting and fishing opportunities

Youth waterfowl hunting. Photo by USFWS.
Youth waterfowl hunting. Photo by USFWS.

To restore essential Missouri River habitat, the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources Division of Nebraska Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked together to reconnect Boyer Chute as a side channel of the Missouri River in the early 1990s. The revitalization of Boyer Chute was the first successful, large-scale restoration project of its kind along the Missouri River. Today, the Boyer Chute waterway and surrounding Missouri River floodplain habitats provide a home for a variety of plants, animals, and fish species.

Located just 15 miles north of Omaha, Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge is a popular destination for a number of recreational opportunities. The restored chute is a popular fishing destination for catfish, shovelnose sturgeon, walleye and other river fish species. A handicap accessible pier and several parking areas provide a variety of access points for all anglers. The island portion of the refuge has more than eight miles of trails that take visitors through the floodplain. Wildlife viewing and photography are popular on the trails and along the auto tour.

The refuge welcomes sportsmen and women from around the country for hunting opportunities, including waterfowl hunting in accordance with state and federal hunting regulations. People come to hunt ducks, geese and coots along the shoreline and banks of the Missouri River. Hunting opportunities don’t stop at waterfowl. In December, muzzleloader hunters come to Boyer Chute to participate in the antlerless deer hunt.

The perfect place to watch wildlife

Red-headed woodpecker. Photo by Debbie Koenigs/USFWS.
Red-headed woodpecker. Photo by Debbie Koenigs/USFWS.

Wildlife observation is growing in popularity across all of our national wildlife refuges and Boyer Chute is no exception. Last year, the refuge welcomed more than 40,000 people to enjoy a variety of wildlife, including waterfowl, great blue herons, killdeer and red-winged blackbirds. In the winter, the refuge is a great place to spot overwintering bald eagles. You’re likely to see them perched in tall cottonwood trees along the chute.

The refuge grasslands are great places to watch and listen for meadowlarks, dickcissels and grasshopper sparrows. The refuge’s bottomland forests are home to red-headed woodpeckers, northern flickers, barred owls and yellow-rumped warblers. If you are lucky, you might spot an American bittern, a softshell turtle, or you might even find a short-eared owl! Keep an eye out for the stealthy resident coyotes and foxes when you’re out at dawn or dusk - such a treat to see!

The Missouri River was once a warm, turbid, wide, braided and slow river. Today, its historic flows have been altered to the point where it is no longer a natural system. It has now become a cold, dammed, channelized and fast-moving. The restored Boyer Chute provides visitors a glimpse to what the Missouri River used to look like before levees, dams and channelization.

Learn more about Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge and plan your visit today!

Celebrating the future and appreciating the past

This series of articles is inspired by the long history of land managers and biologists who protect, restore and conserve our National Wildlife Refuge System lands. As our midwest refuges reach milestone anniversaries, we will highlight what makes them special. Look for historic photos, lesser known biological and geological tidbits and reflections from the people who know them best - refuge field staff. Learn more »

 

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

Connect with our Facebook page at facebook.com/usfwsmidwest, follow our tweets at twitter.com/usfwsmidwest, watch our YouTube Channel at youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at flickr.com/photos/usfwsmidwest.