Newsroom Midwest Region

Celebrating the future and appreciating the past

From hognose snakes to chorus frogs: Meredosia is more than a flyway

May 9, 2018

Solitary sandpiper. Photo courtesy of Mark Moschell/Creative Commons.
Solitary sandpiper. Photo courtesy of Mark Moschell/Creative Commons.

Meredosia National Wildlife Refuge is turning 45 today! Even though it’s relatively young compared with many national wildlife refuges, Meredosia has ties that date back to the 1930s. Help them celebrate by learning about what makes this flyway hotspot so special.

Meredosia National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1973 to provide a sanctuary primarily for waterfowl and other migratory birds and is located along the east side of the Illinois River in Morgan and Cass Counties, Illinois. Managed as a part of the Illinois River National Wildlife and Fish Refuges Complex, the refuge is part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s conservation legacy. Together with Emiquon and Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuges, the refuge complex encompasses nearly 13,000 acres of resting and breeding habitat.

Meredosia serves as a temporary home to thousands of waterfowl that feed and rest during their annual spring and fall migration. The fall migration peaks in November and the spring migration peaks in late February or early March. When seasonally flooded, the wetland units located adjacent to Meredosia Lake provide a mix of prime habitat for diving and dabbling ducks. Almost 30 species of waterfowl are known to use the refuge. The area is also significant for wood duck production.

In addition to waterfowl, the low water during summer drawdowns and the resulting mudflats attract a variety of shorebirds, especially sandpipers, gulls and terns. May and August can be the best time to see them and are a great time to plan a visit. Dense wetland vegetation provides shelter and feeding habitat for marsh birds like rails, herons and egrets as well.

While waterfowl are a primary focus at the refuge, you can also see lots of neotropical migrants in the shoulder seasons and resident wildlife year-round. Prothonotary warblers, dickcissels and grasshopper sparrows are common. Meredosia is more than just great bird habitat, the wetlands, bottomland forest and prairie are home to all sorts of reptiles and amphibians. Recent surveys documented Illinois chorus frogs and both eastern and western hognose snakes, all rarities in Illinois. Refuge biologists have also spotted king and Virginia rails.

Meredosia National Wildlife Refuge changes throughout the seasons and provides outstanding recreational opportunities like hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography. As the refuge marks 45 years of conservation in America’s heartland, we invite you to stop in and wish them well on another 45 years.

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

Historic photo by USFWS.

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.

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