Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico is renowned for its Festival of the Cranes, Nov. 14-17 this year, where you can also see a profusion of snow geese. Photo by Diana Robinson
Since its establishment on March 14, 1903, the National Wildlife Refuge System has protected and restored a world of wildlife. Today, the Refuge System is the world’s largest network of protected lands and waters. It manages more than 850 million acres, including five marine national monuments, 566 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts.
Every day – somewhere in the United States – people gasp OMG as they see wildlife spectacles on national wildlife refuges. In celebration of the Refuge System’s birthday, the week’s photo essay, Wildlife Extravaganzas at Wildlife Refuges, takes you on an across-the-country journey to beauty and mesmerizing wildlife.
You can see flocks of Forster’s terns at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey in spring and fall. Photo by Bill Lynch=
In the Northeast: Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, stretching 50 miles along the Atlantic flyway, is aflutter with tens of thousands of birds during spring and fall. A 6,000-acre wilderness is nesting and feeding habitat for the rare piping plover, least tern and black skimmer. Every spring, horseshoe crabs lay their eggs on the beach; ravenous red knots, sandpipers, sanderlings and dunlins to feast on the eggs before continuing their long migration north.
Manatees live an average of 60 years. Photo by Keith Ramos/USFWS
In the Southeast: You can see manatees year-round at Florida’s Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. But in winter the sight is extraordinary: Some 600 of these endangered sea cows congregate in the warm, spring-fed waters of Kings Bay.
Float the Niobrara National Scenic River to get an eyeful of the refuge’s plants, habitats and wildlife, including bison. Photo by Phyllis Cooper
In the Midwest: Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge in north-central Nebraska sustains the rich wildlife diversity the land has supported for thousands of years. Fossils from more than 20 mammal species – including the giant bison – have been unearthed here. But it’s the 350-animal bison herd that enthralls. You can get a great view from roads and the overlook, where you can also glimpse the year-round elk herd.
You might spot bald and golden eagles, northern harriers, and red-tailed and rough-legged hawks when you visit Klamath Basin Wildlife Refuge Complex in northern California and southern Oregon. Photo by Jack Noller
In the West: More than 1,000 bald eagles usually winter at Klamath Basin Wildlife Refuge Complex in northern California and southern Oregon. There you will find the largest concentration of bald eagles in the lower 48 states. The complex is a group of six refuges that offer prime eagle habitat. Take the auto tour routes on Lower Klamath and Tule Lake Refuges for second-to-none wildlife viewing.
You can watch sows and cubs fish in summer at Frazer Falls, part of Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Photo by Lisa Hupp/USFWS
In Alaska: Nothing says “wildlife” like Kodiak brown bears, genetically distinct from mainland brown bears. Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1941 to protect the animal whose name it bears. The refuge’s rich vegetation and plentiful salmon mean the 3,000 bears flourish.
Wildlife Extravaganzas at Wildlife Refuges, is part of the Refuge System’s series of weekly photo essays that highlight the conservation work and visitor opportunities at national wildlife refuges, wetland management districts and marine national monuments. A new photo essay is posted on the Refuge System home page each Wednesday. The essays are archived here.