Visitor Activities

Visitor Activity

To explore the refuge, stop by the overlook at the Muscatine Slough parking lot, hike the trails near the office, or bring your canoe and paddle the Odessa Water Trail. The accessible fishing pier at the inlet tubes on the Louisa Division is a popular fishing spot year round. The hiking trails are natural surface and vary in slope with some flat sections.

  • Hunting


    Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge offers opportunities for deer, migratory bird, and upland game hunting on three of the refuge divisions. Hunting is generally allowed in accordance with state seasons and regulations. See refuge regulations for more specific regulations.

    Horseshoe Bend Division is open to upland game and big game hunting from December 1 through the end of the seasons and is open to spring turkey hunting.

    Big Timber Division is a backwater of the Mississippi River and is the only division open to migratory bird hunting. Big game and upland game hunting are also allowed.

    Keithsburg Division is open for squirrel hunting from the beginning of the state season through September 14. No other hunting is allowed.

    Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge encourages hunters to use lead free ammunition when deer hunting. Research has found that lead pieces left behind in the gut piles of deer are dangerous and even deadly to the eagles and other wildlife that eat them. Check out the following link for more information about this topic:

    Learn More
  • Fishing


    The most popular fishing spot is at the inlet tubes at the north end of Louisa Division. You can fish along the bank or from an accessible fishing pier and catch crappie, bluegill, and other fish throughout the year.

    Big Timber, Louisa and Keithsburg Divisions have boat ramps to access the areas. Big Timber is open all year. Fishing at Keithsburg Division is allowed from January 1 through September 14 with the exception of the Spring Slough Access which is open all year.

    Horseshoe Bend offers good fishing during certain times of the year and depends on the levels of the Iowa River.

    Learn More
  • Wildlife Viewing

    Wildlife Viewing

    Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge is located along the Mississippi Flyway and offers visitors an opportunity to see abundant wildlife during migration. Over 200 bird species have been recorded on the Refuge, some visit and some are resident birds that remain on the refuge throughout the year. October, November, and March are the best months to see large concentrations of waterfowl. Shorebird and warbler migrations usually peak the first week of May.

    Bald eagles are common in the winter as they gather near the river to feed in open water areas. Herons and egrets are commonly seen during the summer feeding in refuge wetlands. Deer, raccoon, turkey, beaver, and opossum are year-round residents, but are not always easy to spot. Wildflowers bloom from April until September.

  • Interpretation


    National wildlife refuges across the country provide opportunities for visitors to make their own connections to the outdoors. Self-guided hikes and staff-led programs help visitors learn more about wildlife and their habitats. Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge hosts events that highlight a variety of opportunities throughout the year including an auto tour, birding events, and canoeing.

  • Environmental Education


    One of our most important roles is as an outdoor classroom to teach about the environment. The refuge's education program focuses on increasing understanding of the natural history of the area and developing an appreciation of wetlands and associated natural diversity. Opportunities include school field outings, wetland educational trunks, and classroom presentations.

  • Photography


    Perhaps the fastest growing activity on national wildlife refuges in the past ten years has been wildlife photography. That’s not surprising – the digital camera population explosion and cell phones with ever-improving picture-taking abilities are increasing the number of nature photographers at a rapid rate. You don’t need to purchase expensive equipment or have any experience to get started. A small camera or basic cell phone will do just fine for most visitors.

    Nearly 12 million people visit outdoor areas each year to photograph wildlife, and national wildlife refuges naturally are at the top of the list. Refuges provide enhanced opportunities to photograph wildlife in natural habitats by providing platforms, brochures, interpreters, viewing areas, and tour routes. Wildlife photography is a high-priority activity in the Refuge System. We welcome beginning and expert photographers alike to record their outdoor adventures on film, memory card or internal hard drive!

  • Hiking/Canoeing

    Wildlife Viewing from a Trail

    Hiking is available on a 3 mile round trip trail that connects the office to the Muscatine slough observation deck. The trail is mostly natural surface with some steep grades. It can be accessed at the overlook by the headquarters, or at the Muscatine slough observation deck. Mowed service roads at the Horseshoe Bend Division also serve as seasonal trails and their use depends on Iowa River water levels. The Odessa water trail runs through the refuge and the adjacent Odessa Wildlife Management Area offers spectacular canoeing and kayaking. Please check water levels prior to your trip as they can vary greatly throughout the year.

    Muscatine Slough Trail Map


    Odessa Water Trail Map