Trumpeter swans at Union Slough NWR
Union Slough NWR Auto Tour Route Open October 6th through 15th

The Union Slough NWR Auto Tour Route will be open from October 6th through October 15th in celebration of National Wildlife Refuge Week!  Visitors are welcome to drive the tour route from sunrise to sunset during those dates. The auto tour route begins at the refuge headquarters and takes visitors along a four and one-half mile drive of wetland, open water, and prairie habitat. Along the tour route, a variety of wildlife including trumpeter swans, ducks, geese, river otters, bald eagles, great blue herons, shorebirds, sandhill cranes, songbirds, and white-tailed deer may be seen. The refuge pools have refilled following the drought and the reflooded vegetation is providing outstanding habitat for thousands migrating waterfowl. In addition, the refuge habitats have turned to their fall colors. Remember, wildlife is generally most active in early morning and in the evenings.  Click here for Auto Tour Route Rules.

Union Slough is all that remains of a pre-glacial riverbed. Actually, the area is a connection point, or union, between two watersheds - the Blue Earth River of Minnesota and the east fork of the Des Moines River. Before European settlement, the area was so level that the wind determined which way the slough flowed. Established in 1938 as a migratory waterfowl refuge, Union Slough National Wildlife Refuge provides critical habitat for native prairie and wetland wildlife in a landscape dominated by intensive agriculture.
Photo of an Oxbow Restoration with Darrick Weissenfluh
Partners for Fish and Wildlife

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a program called Partners for Fish and Wildlife that provides free technical and financial assistance to landowners, managers, tribes, corporations, schools and nonprofits interested in improving wildlife habitat on their land.

If you're interested in prairie, wetland, and/or oxbow restoration, please contact our Private Lands Biologist: Darrick Weissenfluh,, Cell 515-320-5636

Visit Us

National wildlife refuges offer the outdoor enthusiast an opportunity to escape from the stresses of daily life and reconnect with nature. Union Slough National Wildlife Refuge has excellent ways for outdoor enthusiasts to connect with the natural world.

Location and Contact Information

      Our Species

      More than 240 species of birds have been seen on Union Slough National Wildlife Refuge, with more than 100 species known nest on the refuge. The refuge is the epicenter of trumpeter swan nesting in Iowa. Federally threatened prairie bush-clover and state endangered Blanding’s turtles are found on the refuge.