Newsroom Midwest Region

Celebrating the Future and Appreciating the Past

Happy 80th Birthday to Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge

August 23, 2015

The Loess Hills at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri. Photo courtesy of Jason Miller.
The Loess Hills at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri. Photo courtesy of Jason Miller.

Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge was established on August 23,1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt through the Migratory Bird Conservation Act as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife and is recognized as an internationally Important Bird Area. The refuge is strategically located between two major migratory bird corridors, the Mississippi and Central Flyways, which causes a bottleneck effect, attracting high numbers of birds during peak migration. If you time your visit right, you can see more than 300 bald eagles, 100,000 waterfowl or more than a million snow geese!

The refuge is comprised of 7,415 acres along the eastern edge of the Missouri River floodplain and is flanked to the east by steep Loess Hills that rise more than 150 feet. This geologic phenomenon is unique to the Missouri River Valley, which have wind-blown silt deposits deep enough to create this extensive landform that stretches for approximately 200-miles. The Loess Hills is more than a geologic relic, it supports rare remnants of native prairie and prairie associated wildlife.

Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge conserves, restores, and manages a variety of habitats, including wetland, bottomland, upland, and grassland. These lands benefit a variety of wildlife, including eastern massasauga rattlesnake, Blanding's turtle, and the least bittern. Refuge biologists also manage the largest contiguous wet prairie in Missouri.

Wildlife observation is popular at the refuge with great opportunities for viewing year round. Explore the refuge through the 10-mile auto tour loop or walk the trails that provide access to observation areas, viewing towers, and great places to observe and photograph wildlife and scenery. One trail allows a view of Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska on a clear day! The refuge also provides environmental education opportunities such as Eagle Days. This event is held the first weekend in December each year and visitors can view eagles on the refuge and attend special programs to learn more.

Depending on the time of the year, you will likely see snow geese, shorebirds, marshbirds, and a variety of waterfowl such as pintail, gadwall, teal, and trumpeter swans. Deer and turkey are also common sightings. If you’re lucky, you may even see some less common visitors, such as Eurasian wigeons, sandhill cranes, black-necked stilts and piping plovers.

Squaw Creek is located less than two hours away from four metro areas, including St. Joseph, Kansas City, Lincoln and Omaha. The refuge’s location is ideal for a weekend getaway to escape the city and reconnect with nature.

The Civilian Conservation Corps had a camp in Mound City, Missouri, during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal era, where the relief program focused on building levees and facilities. Many of the refuge’s roads, dikes, early facilities and trails, including one with 200 hand-laid stone steps were built by the CCC.

Some famous refuge visitors include baseball player Ted Williams, professional golfer Tom Watson, and American aviation pioneer James "Jimmy" Doolittle - so you never know who you may see!

Learn more about Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge and plan your trip at

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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