Plan Your Visit

Mallards on DeSoto Lake

The refuge grounds are open daily sunrise to sunset; the visitor center is open under temporary adjusted hours of Tuesday through Saturday (except for certain federal holidays) 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Bertrand steamboat museum collection is on display inside the visitor center.

Directions, Address & Contact Info


DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge is located 25 miles north of Omaha, NE. From Omaha take Interstate 29 north to U.S. Highway 30, Exit 75 at Missouri Valley, continue west on US Hwy 30 for 5 miles to the refuge entrance. Or take US Hwy 75 North to Hwy 30, going east 5 miles to the refuge entrance on DeSoto Avenue.

DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge
1434 316th Lane
Missouri Valley, IA 51555

Refuge phone: 712/388-4800
Fax: 712/388-4808

**GPS USERS** Please note that the south gate entrance to the refuge near Wilson Island is closed from October 15-April 14. Please be sure that GPS directions take you through the highway 30 entrance to the refuge.

REFUGE BROCHURE:View a PDF of the refuge brochure.

While you're in the area, visit Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge, located three miles east of Fort Calhoun, Nebraska!

Entrance Fees

DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge is a federal fee area and a valid entry permit is required to enter the refuge or travel on roads in the refuge.

Daily entrance fees are $3.00 per vehicle. Fees are collected at the visitor center or self-service fee stations at entrances. Other valid entrance permits include: The DeSoto Refuge annual pass ($15.00), Federal Duck Stamp, and Federal Recreational Lands Passes including the Annual, Senior, Access, Military or Volunteer.

Points of Interest

DeSoto's Visitor Center is open under temporary adjusted hours of Tuesday through Saturday (except for certain federal holidays) 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.. The visitor center is a starting point for visitors and has wildlife exhibits, information and interpretive brochures and friendly staff to help you plan your visit. The Bertrand Steamboat Museum is also found in the Visitor Center. The museum display shows the thousands of cargo items that were excavated from the Bertrand Steamboat which sunk in 1865.

Other points of interest on the refuge include:

  • Auto Tour Route
  • Hiking Trails
  • Steamboat Bertrand Discovery Site

See the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge brochure for the locations of all facilities, roads and trails.

Self-Guiding Tour Road

DeSoto's self-guiding tour road access changes each year during Migration Season, October 15 - April 14th.

DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge limits access to some of the refuge roads during the fall and spring waterfowl migration season. This includes the south entrance gate, as well as the south and east side of the loop road. This limited access is in effect each year from October 15-April 14.

All use of DeSoto lake, including bank fishing, boat fishing and any other boating is prohibited during this period.

The purpose of the partial tour loop closure is to reduce potential disturbance to waterfowl that use DeSoto Lake and refuge wetlands as a stopover area during the fall and spring migrations. If ice conditions permit, DeSoto Lake will be open to ice fishing on January 2 through the end of February and all public use roads will be reopened. If you have questions, please call the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge at (712) 388-4800.

During Public Use Season, April 15 - October 14, all tour roads, south gate and DeSoto lake are open; fishing and boating is permitted.


  • DeSoto Lake is also closed to any activity, including fishing October 15-April 14.
  • Between October 15 and April 14, gates are closed to prohibit travel from left turn intersection (southeast past the Missouri River Overlook) along the Missouri River to South Gate Recreation Area and the South Entrance / Exit Gate. The gravel section of the tour road from Bob Starr Wildlife Overlook to South Gate is also closed.
  • The South Gate Entrance / Exit itself remains closed during this period; visitors must enter and exit the refuge using the north gate along US Route 30.
  • If sufficient ice forms on DeSoto Lake, the lake is opened and ICE FISHING ONLY permitted between January 2 and the end of February each year. If these conditions are present - the entire tour loop, including the gravel sections and the South Entrance / Exit Gate re-open for that period.

* Visitors can bike or drive, year - round, the paved sections of the tour road from the north entrance along US Route 30 to the visitor center, and past to the Missouri River overlook. make the left turn to travel past the Bertrand Discovery Site, Cottonwood/Grassland Trail and Bob Starr Wildlife Overlook.

Trip Planning

When planning a trip to the refuge, wear appropriate footwear and dress for the weather. Bring water, food, binoculars, field guides, a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent and anything else that might make the outdoor experience more enjoyable.