Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1990 with the purpose to protect, restore and reconstruct and manage native ecosystems of tallgrass prairie, oak savanna and sedge meadow. Prior to European-American settlement, tallgrass prairie covered 85% of Iowa. Today, less than 0.1% of Iowa’s prairie remains in small isolated fragments. In an effort to bring back native prairie plant communities, refuge staff and volunteers gathered and used local seed sources to replant or reconstruct 4,000 acres of tallgrass prairie.

Today, the refuge protects 6,000 acres of wildlife habitat and provides visitors, students, researchers and local landowners with educational, recreational and volunteer opportunities to learn about and enjoy their native tallgrass prairie heritage.
Visitor Center Hours

The visitor center is open Thursday through Saturday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. The center is closed on all federal holidays that fall on a Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. The visitor center is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. The walking trails and Prairie Wildlife Drive are open daily from sunrise to sunset.

Visit Us

National wildlife refuges offer us all a chance to unplug from the stresses of daily life and reconnect with our natural surroundings. At Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, visitors can participate in a variety of wildlife-dependent recreational and education opportunities to experience their native tallgrass prairie heritage. The visitor center offers hands on educational exhibits, a 15 minute award winning educational film and indoor and outdoor eating areas. Outdoor activities include 5 walking trails, a 4.5 mile bike trail and a 5 mile auto tour. Additionally, visitors and students can participate in scheduled programs, special events and get involved with volunteer projects.

Location and Contact Information

      Our Organization

      A bright blue sky obstructed by fluffy white clouds reflected off of a stream shot from inside a kayak
      The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages an unparalleled network of public lands and waters called the National Wildlife Refuge System. With more than 560 refuges spanning the country, this system protects iconic species and provides some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities on Earth.

      Our Species

      Although many species call Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge home, a few are particularly important to the refuge. Learn more about what we’re doing to conserve bison, elk and grassland birds.

      Bull bison standing on the prairie

      The American Bison (Bison bison) is a North American species of bison. These bison once inhabited the grasslands of North America in massive herds; their range roughly formed a triangle between the Great Bear Lake in Canada's far northwest, south to the Mexican states of Durango and Nuevo León,...

      FWS Focus