Eight great places to celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week
October 10, 2017
Two common loons on the water. Photo by Gary J. Wege/USFWS.
Looking for great places to get out and explore? There are more than 560 national wildlife refuges across the country where you can observe and photograph wildlife, go hunting and fishing, stop in for an education program or enjoy an evening talk. Refuges are the perfect place to take a hike, spend time on the water and enjoy some quiet time outdoors. For more than 100 years, your National Wildlife Refuge System has been protecting America’s lands and waters. From the tamarack bogs of northern Minnesota to the cypress swamps in southern Illinois, here are eight national wildlife refuges off the beaten path.
Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge in Ohio
A female Kirtland's warbler perched in a tree. Photo by Rebecca Hinkle/USFWS.
Cedar Point was established in 1964 to provide stopover habitat for migratory birds within the historic Lake Erie marshes. These marshes provide a place for migratory birds to refuel during migration and are a great place to sharpen your birding skills. The refuge has the largest contiguous coastal marsh on Lake Erie, with more than 1,500 acres of wetlands for bird nesting, feeding and roosting. Open June through August, people come for great fishing, wildlife observation and photography. Learn more about Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge.
Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Illinois
A Prothonotary warbler perched in a tree. Photo courtesy of Steve Gifford.
Cypress Creek was established in 1990 to protect, restore and manage wetlands and bottomland forests. Today, Cypress Creek includes more than 16,000 acres of cypress-tupelo swamp, forest, oak barrens and prairie grassland. The refuge is cradled between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, within the Cache River watershed. Listed as a Globally Important Bird Area by the American Bird Conservancy, the refuge offers some of the best birding and wildlife viewing in the Midwest. People love to get out on the water here, with many waterways featuring a diversity of habitats that are appropriate for canoeing, kayaking and flatboats. Learn more about Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge.
Mingo National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri
Gray tree frog on American beautyberry. Photo by Peter Rea/USFWS.
Mingo gets its name from the Algonquin term meaning “stealthy and treacherous,” but don’t let that slow you down! This refuge offers beautiful wetlands and swamps that weave through a mix of bottomland forests and carve a network of waterways for canoeing and kayaking. In addition to great boating and hiking, the refuge boasts three auto tour routes for wildlife observation and photography. Mingo has almost 9,000 acres open to hunting, including an ADA-accessible trail and three stationary blinds for hunters with mobility limitations. The refuge offers programs and self-guided exhibits year-round to help you learn more about the wildlife and habitats that make Mingo such a special place. Programs and events are free and provide a range of opportunities that maximize first-hand experiences in the Mingo Basin. Learn more about Mingo National Wildlife Refuge.
Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin
A Blanding's turtle crossing a refuge road. Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS.
Necedah is named after the Ho-Chunk word for “land of yellow waters.” This refers to the tawny, yellow water that is stained by mineral-rich soils of the area. The refuge is situated on the bed of Glacial Lake Wisconsin and the Great Central Wisconsin Swamp, a vast peatland laced with dry ridges of sand that were deposited by waves of glacial melt-water. This beautiful landscape is home to the world’s largest population of endangered Karner blue butterflies. The refuge has an abundance of wild lupines - the only plant that can host the caterpillar phase of Karner blue butterflies. Necedah is a great place to visit any time of year, whether you come to take a hike, go fishing, pick berries or go hunting. Looking for a new way to get outdoors in the winter? The refuge has snowshoes available for adults and children - perfect for exploring five miles of ungroomed trails that are open daily in the winter months. Learn more about Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.
Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge in Indiana
A bobcat walks along the railroad tracks. Photo courtesy of Steve Gifford.
Patoka River provides resting, feeding and nesting habitat for migratory birds in southern Indiana and encompasses 6,600 acres of wetlands, floodplain forest and uplands along 30 miles of the Patoka River corridor. Come and learn about the ecological significance of the area and develop a lifelong appreciation for local plants and animals. The Friends of the Patoka River and other knowledgeable volunteers lead educational hikes and workshops at the refuge. Photography is a big draw year-round, ranging from dragonflies in the summer, beautiful stands of goldenrod in the fall, bobcat tracks in the winter and salamanders in the spring. The Patoka River, and its tributaries, provide opportunities for fishing from banks or boats. Refuge wetlands and backwater sloughs offer opportunities to catch crappie, bass, bluegill and other fish throughout the year. Learn more about Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge.
Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa
Monarch butterflies roosting in an oak tree. Photo by Jessica Bolser/USFWS.
Port Louisa was established for the protection of migratory birds along the Mississippi River Flyway, one of North America’s major routes for migrating waterfowl. More than 200 resident and migratory birds have been recorded on the refuge. October and November are the best months to see large concentrations of waterfowl as they head south for the winter. Bald eagles are common in the winter, as they gather near the river to feed in open water areas. In the spring, the refuge welcomes shorebirds and warblers with peak numbers recorded in early May. During the warm summer months, herons and egrets are commonly seen enjoying wetlands. Deer, raccoon, turkey, beaver and opossum are year-round residents, but are not always easy to spot. A variety of wildflowers bloom from April to September, attracting a wide range of pollinators. From canoeing and hiking to hunting and fishing, Port Louisa has outdoor adventures for everyone. Learn more about Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge.
Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Michigan
A biologist holds a wood turtle - the rarest turtle species found on the refuge. Photo by USFWS.
Seney is a remote refuge located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, halfway between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. The refuge is made up of more than 95,000 acres with 26% designated as wilderness. The wildlife drive covers seven miles of diverse habitats, providing a welcoming and wild experience for all visitors. The fishing loop branches off of the wildlife drive, providing anglers the perfect place to catch yellow perch and northern pike. Seney is designated as an Important Bird Area for a number of species, so be sure to bring your binoculars as you explore the hiking trails and refuge roads. Bring your camera for excellent photo opportunities and enter your shots into the annual photo contest. The refuge has more than 86,000 acres open to hunting for ruffed grouse, American woodcock, Wilson’s snipe, snowshoe hare, white-tailed deer and black bear. If you’re interested in experiencing winter in the wilderness, you can explore the entire refuge on cross country skis and snowshoes. There are even 10 miles of groomed nordic trails available for those who don’t want to break their own trail. With a rich mosaic of ecosystems that support an array of wildlife and plant communities, the refuge is the perfect place to watch wildlife and experience nature. Learn more about Seney National Wildlife Refuge.
Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota
A large group of trumpeter swans along the water. Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS.
Tamarac is home to nesting bald eagles, golden-winged warblers, otters, porcupines, wolves and more. The wildlife drive covers five miles along forest edges, marshes and meadows. Wildlife watching is exceptional year-round. Whether you hike the trails, launch a boat or cross-country ski your way through the refuge, you’ll feel the wildness of the north woods. Tamarac has been a prized hunting area for centuries, offering abundant opportunities. In the summer, anglers fish for northern pike, walleye and largemouth bass in five lakes. In the winter, anglers return for ice fishing. Once extirpated from Minnesota, Tamarac is now home to more than 30 successful nesting pairs of trumpeter swans and there are an estimated 5,500 birds around the state. Listen for their brassy call and look for them among beds of wild rice. Although they have been seen year-round at the Refuge, April through October is the best time for viewing. Learn more about Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge.