Bullfrog Reflection by Justin Leon

Welcome to the Frequently Asked Questions for Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge!

Q: What time does the refuge open?   

A: The refuge and the office building open and close at separate times. Refuge gates and hiking trails will open 30 minutes before sunrise and close 30 minutes after sunset Monday-Sunday, while the office building opens at 8:00 a.m. and closes at 4:00 p.m. Monday-Friday. Should the office need to close early, a sign with the posted time of closing will be displayed on the front door of the office. During spring and fall migrations, the office building will also be open on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Learn more!  


Q: When is Eagle Days?  

A: Loess Bluffs NWR Eagle Days takes place on the first full weekend of December each year. Learn more! 

Q: What is the current waterfowl count? / How often is the waterfowl survey conducted?   

A: Waterfowl surveys are conducted ONCE a week during waterfowl/shorebird season/migration and usually on Monday or Tuesday by the Biologist or Biological Science Technician. As the spring season winds down, the surveys are done once per month and then stops during the summer months then it resumes during the fall migration. Depending on the number of birds the survey can take between 4 and 10 hours. Bird numbers are usually posted directly after the survey but long surveys can have numbers posted on the following day. Birds that move in after the survey (even by a day) are not added to the survey. Surveys are conducted during peak bird use hours. See below for important links.  

Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge Weekly Waterfowl Surveys. Learn more! 

Find out what birds are using the refuge by visitors, including the most recent sightings. eBird Trail Tracker 

A good resource for historical bird species presence on the refuge throughout the year can be found here. 

Follow Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge on Facebook! 


Q: How many snow geese are on the refuge? / When is the best time to see the snow geese?  

A: The most accurate count of snow geese on the refuge can be found on the latest waterfowl survey posted above. The snow goose numbers will fluctuate daily when they are present on the refuge. The best time to see snow geese is extremely difficult to predict as it all depends upon the birds and the weather. During the fall, snow geese will typically arrive around Thanksgiving in mid-to-late November and will stay through mid-December, depending on the weather and ice conditions. The fall migration typically receives about 400,000 to 500,000 snow geese. However during the spring migration, the refuge may receive 1.3 million snow geese. Again, the spring migration depends on weather and ice conditions and can arrive anywhere from mid-to-end of February or early March and stay through end of March or early April.  

 Once they are here, the best time to view the snow geese is right before first light before sunrise. The snow geese will leave the refuge to feed in the agriculture fields that surround the refuge, then will return after lunch sometime in the afternoon. Typically the ideal days to see the snow geese on the refuge is during sunny days. If the weather is cloudy or rainy, the snow geese tend to stay out in the fields longer before returning to the refuge later in the afternoon. The snow geese will usually leave around first light and feed off the refuge in surrounding agricultural fields, and then return sometime afternoon.     


Q: What are the mounds out in the water?  

A: The mounds are actually muskrat lodges that the muskrats build upon each year. Muskrats are semi-aquatic and build large houses out of vegetation like river bulrush and cattail and mud. Muskrat houses are different than beavers, in which beavers will dig out a den in a high bank and use woody trees, branches, and mud. Both animals access their lodges through tunnels underwater. Everything from snapping turtles to water snakes, green-wing teal to bald eagles have been known also to use these mounds.     


Q: What does Loess mean?

A: Pronounced as "luss" or "lows", the Loess Bluffs overlooking the refuge from the east are a geologic formation that resulted from finely ground windblown bedrock that was deposited from receding glaciers and are only found in a few other places in the world like the Yellow River in China and the Rhine River in Germany. Loess is a German term meaning "loose" referring to the loose highly erodible soil found here, which stretches from a 200 mile long band from Iowa to Northwest Missouri. Some of the deepest deposits of loess soil is found here, down to 100 feet thick! Some of the plants growing on these hills are found nowhere else in Missouri. The undisturbed portion of the south facing slopes supports remnants of Missouri’s native prairie, including Indian grass, big bluestem, and blazing star.  Sometimes eagles and other birds soar overhead along the bluffs, taking advantage of updraft winds and thermal currents along the bluffs. There is a stone lookout tower built by the CCC in 1941 in the loess bluffs that overlooks the refuge. The trailhead can be found near the Visitor Center entrance, where there are 3 trails visitors can hike on.  


Q: How long is the auto tour loop?  

A: The auto tour loop is 10 miles in length, with an additional spur that leads off the loop that is 2 miles long. The loop itself is one way but the spur that leads to highway 118 is two ways, so visitors may turn around once they reach highway 118 and continue the remaining portion of the tour loop.   Learn More!   


Q: Are there camping sites or camper hook ups available on the refuge?  

A: No camping is allowed at the refuge but Big Lake State Park does offer camping and has cabins for rent and is a short 10 mile drive from the refuge. Learn more about rules and regulations on the refuge and more about visitor activities.


Q: How much does it cost to get onto the refuge?  

A: Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge is free of charge for admission.