About the Refuge

About the refuge

Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, located in the rural towns of Alabama and Shelby mid-way between Rochester and Buffalo, NY has been described as one of the best kept secrets of Western New York. Teeming with wildlife and wild lands the refuge offers opportunities for the public to experience nature in all seasons.


The refuge serves primarily as a nesting, feeding, resting and staging areas for migratory waterfowl. The varied habitats support approximately 266 species of birds, 42 species of mammals, plus reptiles, fish, amphibians and insects. Bald eagles have maintained an active nest on the refuge since 1986. Management goals also address the needs of species of special concern including black tern, black ducks, osprey, American woodcock, and peregrine falcons that use the refuge during some time of the year.

The refuge is one of over 540 National Wildlife Refuges in the United States managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is the only network of federal lands dedicated specifically to wildlife conservation.

Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge is a namesake of the Iroquois Indians, a Native American federation that resided in the northeast. The federation was originally made up of five tribes: Cayuga, Oneida, Mohawk, Seneca and Onondaga. The Tuscarora entered the federation in the 1800s.

At the end of the last glacial period, a huge lake called Tonawanda covered much of western New York. Through the slow passage of time the lake drained and filled until only a few swampy areas remained. Here, wildlife flourished in the diverse habitat.

Centuries later, the Seneca Indians began to drain the swamp and clear some of the forests for farming. To the first European settlers in the early 19th century the remaining clusters of oak trees were reminiscent of an orchard and so they named the area "Oak Orchard Swamp." Settlers expanded artificial drainage of the swamp to improve logging and farming operations, but, plagued by high costs, and a cycle of muck fires and floods, the outcome was marginal at best. By the 1950s, landowners were looking to further develop and convert the lands to other uses. This development would have resulted in the loss of these vital wetlands forever.

On May 19, 1958 the federal government established the Oak Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, using funds from the sale of Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, or "Duck Stamps". To avoid confusion with the neighboring Oak Orchard State Wildlife Management Area, the refuge was renamed Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge in 1964.

Download the refuge brochure (pdf) 

Contact Us 

From the New York State Thruway (I-90) take exit 48-A (Pembroke/Medina). Go north on Route 77 for approximately 8 miles. At the 4-way stop light in Alabama Center continue straight for one more mile to Casey Road. Turn left on Casey Road. The Visitor Center is one mile west.

Mailing Address:

Iroquois NWR
1101 Casey Road
Basom, NY 14013

Phone: (585) 948-5445

Email: iroquois@fws.gov

The Visitor Center is open Monday through Friday, 7:30AM-4:00PM, year round. In the spring and fall, the Visitor Center is open on the weekends from 9:00AM-5:00PM. Please call ahead to see when these dates begin/end during each season.

Trails and overlooks are open from sunrise to sunset. Fishing areas are open from sunrise to sunset within state seasons.