Know Before You Go

Refuge visitors with binoculars

When you plan an outdoor activity at the Refuge, you should be aware of some of the lesser attractive elements of the local natural systems.  Insects, heat, humidity, rain, and blackberry brambles can be very troublesome.  Failure to prepare for or avoid these may lead to annoying or troublesome results. 

CHIGGERS are generally found in grassy areas from late May through September. They are nearly impossible to see with the naked eye. Bites cause small red marks and extreme itching. They are easily repelled with insect repellants containing DEET, permethrin or sulfur powder. Apply these products wherever grass may come in contact with your clothes. Apply especially liberal amounts where clothes fit tight on the body such as behind the knees, around waist, feet/ankles, and arm pits.

If you realize you may have traveled through prime chigger habitat without having used repellant, the best approach is to place clothes in a plastic bag and seal, then shower with hot water and soap as soon as possible. If you cannot do this then apply a liberal amount of repellent on them and hope they hop off of you. Also, remember that if you drive to a motel or home to shower, your car seat may be covered with chiggers. Before returning to your seat you will need to use some kind of repellant or other product to remove them. A severe case of chigger bites will cause many sleepless nights and may also result in a low grade fever - take them seriously!

TICKS encountered on the refuge are generally one of three different species. Ticks are present on the Refuge and are most prevalent in areas with an abundance of grassy or herbaceous vegetation, especially near deer trails. Dense woods with sparse ground vegetation is actually where you are least likely to encounter wood ticks. The time of year when wood ticks are most prevalent is late April through June, though a few may be encountered nearly anytime of the year.

Occasional cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lymes Disease have been reported in the county. These diseases are caused by wood tick bites. It is believed however that wood ticks cannot instantly transfer disease but must remain attached for a specified period of time to cause disease transfer and that only a small percentage of the wood tick population is capable of transmitting disease.

Several repellants are available to lessen the chances of ticks staying on you, including DEET, permethrin and others. Follow manufacturers' instructions for use.

The most troublesome type of tick is locally referred to as a "seed tick." They are about the size of a pin head and are very difficult to see. They are sometimes encountered in large groups locally referred to as a "nest".  

MOSQUITOES are generally not a problem. They can be troublesome at periodic times of the year if you sit in one spot for quite a while and are near an area of shallow standing water. They are generally repelled by common insect repellants as long as you don’t sweat off the repellant.

Like them or not, HEAT and HUMIDITY are a climatic feature which add greatly to the robustness and diversity of the local vegetation and unfortunately the suffering of humans. Late May through September is the predominant period of heat and humidity. Temperatures during this period can be expected to be in the mid 80's to upper 90's with humidity readings in the same range. There are periodic breaks in the heat and humidity but they are generally infrequent and don’t last for very long. Fortunately the heat usually does not become extremely unpleasant until sometime between 10:00 and 12:00 am. The heat of the day usually does not subside until after sunset. The best way to beat the heat is to avoid the hottest times of the day. If you cannot or do not want to do this then try to stay in the shade and drink lots of liquids with electrolytes.

Without preparation, RAIN can dampen any outing. Waterproof boots and breathable rain gear can add greatly to comfort. The average yearly rainfall for the Refuge is 39 inches. Most of this rain falls during a small part of the year, usually in mid to late spring and again in mid fall. However, it can rain heavily any time of the year. Once the ground is saturated even small rains of 1/4" can cause rivers and streams to flood. Be extremely cautious of walking or driving through flooded areas. Seemingly motionless water can have swift currents and roads are often flooded at much greater depths than is apparent.

BLACKBERRY BRAMBLES can be found as rather extensive stands along forest edges and in open areas of the refuge. Don’t try to go through a large patch - you will curse yourself for it. However, other than scratches, torn clothes, and imbedded thorns you will live through an encounter with blackberries.