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Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

Everything you need to know about National Wildlife Refuge Week

Next week is one of our favorite times of the year here at Open Spaces: National Wildlife Refuge Week!   

Of course, anytime is a good time to visit a National Wildlife Refuge.  But no week on the calendar is as filled with as many events as National Wildlife Refuge Week, celebrated each year during the second full week of October. 

So, as promised, here’s everything you need to know to help celebrate your National Wildlife Refuge System:

I’ve never been to a National Wildlife Refuge, what can I do there? 

Most of the nation's 553 wildlife refuges are open to the public.  And they offer great recreation:  fishing and hunting, bird watching and other wildlife watching; wildlife photography; more than 2,500 miles of land and water trails, nature interpretation programs; and environmental education. 

 Credit: USFWS/Steve HilleBrand

What kind of events are there during Refuge Week?

All kinds! Twilight marsh walks.  Guided hikes on nature trails.  Behind-the-scenes tours of refuges.  A chance to see such rare species as Tule elk, San Joaquin kit fox, California condors. Wildlife films.  Amazing Refuge Race. Speaker series.  There’s even a bison auction at Ft. Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge in Nebraska.  

How do I find an event near me?

There are 553 National Wildlife Refuges and 38 Wetland Management Districts across the country, protecting about 150 million acres of critical habitat for wildlife. There is at least one National Wildlife Refuge in every state so chances are that you can probably plan a daytripfor your visit.

You can’t be everywhere during National Wildlife Refuge Week.  So pick a few spots that are fascinating to you.  You can find the events on our Special Events Calendar.  Select “national wildlife refuge week” from the drop down menu. 

There are so many events to choose from! What are some of your favorites?

There are too many great events to name them all, but here are two just to give you an idea of what’s out there:

Muscatatuck Refuge in Indiana kicks off the week with The Big Sit! on Oct. 9, when kids, families – anyone, really – can help identify birds by sight or by their call.  The Bit Sit! is an international event – a sort of friendly competition that is more about being outside than about winning.  Look for many more “Big Sit” events at other refuges around the country in our Special Events Calendar

Do you live on the West Coast?  Consider the 11-mile Bay Bike Ride at Don Edwards San Francisco Bay Refuge on Oct. 9, starting at 10 a.m.  You’ll ride with docent Gregg Aronson along Marshlands Road and on the Shoreline Trail to observe birds and other wildlife, including the occasional leopard shark.  Greg will talk about the habitats you pass through:  salt marsh, salt pond and the bay.  The paved and dirt trails are almost flat.  Using a mountain, trail or hybrid bike is highly recommended – and you have to wear a helmet. 

Anything else I should know?

Have fun!  After you get back from one of our events, make sure you head over to our Facebook page and share your experience!

Kids exploring at Kenai NWR in Alaska Credit: USFWS/Steve Hillebrand


I have been wanting to go to the wildlife refuge for a while now and it looks like a great place. Is the place safe for kids and dogs? I assume it is since there is a picture with children on it, but I want to make sure and come prepared. I'd like to bring my border collie too but I'm not sure it would be allowed. She's a pretty good dog who does a bunch of <a href="http://www.dogtrickacademy.com/">dog tricks</a>.

Maybe I'll just give them a quick call in the morning.
# Posted By Jean Cote | 10/4/11 11:45 PM

Refuges are definitely safe for kids! During Refuge week, some will even offer specific events to get kids involved with the outdoors. Good luck! If you have any other questions, like about your dog, calling the Visitor Services of your local refuge is a great place to start to get answers.
# Posted By Michael Davidson | 10/5/11 12:26 PM

Somewhat surprisingly, I first learned about National Wildlife Refuge Week up in Canada from a <a href="http://www.asaplock.com/">Toronto locksmith</a>, Pat Flynn. He and family have an annual tradition to visit the refuge at Harbor Island, MI and last year, our family enjoyed visits to Iroquois and Montezuma in NY for the first time -- a new tradition born!
# Posted By Andre Reid | 2/6/12 7:02 AM
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