Grab the kids. Head out the door. Summer arrives today at 6:34 p.m. ET. , and here’s a way to start it right: Take your wiggly crew on a day trip to a national wildlife refuge.
Wildlife refuges, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are full of amazing sights. And they’re closer than you think. If you live in a big city, chances are there’s a refuge within an hour’s drive.
What can you and your clan do in summer on a wildlife refuge? Lots. Try these ideas for starters.
See the sights
Alligator snapping turtle, Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge, Alabama. Photo by Garry Tucker/USFWS
National wildlife refuges and the wildlife they protect are an integral part of our American heritage.
Refuges are your public lands, protecting such species such as alligators, whooping cranes and sea turtles. You owe it to yourself to check them out. Here are some of the most popular refuges to see wildlife.
Snap great nature images
A Taylor’s checkerspot displays its distinctive wing pattern in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Photo by Aaron Barna
Ever wanted to play Ansel Adams? Here’s your chance. At a refuge, you can find wonderful nature subjects galore. Pick up some nature photography tips from experts.
The Service's Mindy Gautreaux and daughter Jordan show off their catch after Mindy gave Jordan a fishing lesson at a camp in Mississippi. Photo by Mindy Gautreaux/USFWS
Many wildlife refuges are great spots to land a big one – or give your kids a beginner’s lesson. Check out the Refuge System fishing guide.
A youngster scans for birds at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Joanna Gilkeson/USFWS
Birding is always popular on refuges. Many refuges were established to protect habitat for migratory birds. If you don’t have binoculars, ask if you can borrow a pair at the refuge visitor station. Starting with big birds – such as cranes, herons, prairie chickens and storks – is a good idea for youngsters and first-timers. Birding checklists and more.
Take a walk
Participants in a “hike with a ranger” event pause at San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, California. Photo by USFWS
You say you could use a little exercise? Go for it. Take a walk in nature, enjoying the fresh air and the sights and colors around you. Go on a guided walk or venture out on your own-- sometimes it’ll just be you and the wildlife around you. Find a trail near you.
Go for a paddle
Canoe trail, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. Photo by Berkley Bedell/USFWS
Summer is supposed to involve water, right? Find some awesome refuge water trails.
Take a scenic drive
See the wildlife without breaking a sweat. Many refuges have auto tour routes that let you see the sights from your vehicle. Find some great scenic refuge drives.
National wildlife refuges, and all the wildlife they protect, are an integral part of our American heritage. Any time is the right time to visit a refuge, and you won’t regret a summer visit.