What We Do

The National Wildlife Refuge System is a series of lands and waters owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the refuge system. It drives everything we do from the purpose a refuge is established, to the recreational activities offered there, to the resource management tools we use. Selecting the right tools helps us ensure the survival of local plants and animals and helps fulfill the purpose of the refuge.

Furbearer trapping on the refuge has a longstanding tradition and has been a useful tool in maintaining balance between furbearers and habitat, and safeguarding refuge infrastructure. Trapping may be used to protect endangered and threatened species or migratory birds or to control certain wildlife populations. Trappers must obtain a special use permit and follow state and federal regulations.

Island restoration is also an important management strategy on the river. Over time, islands have been lost due to flooding and erosion. Restoring the islands offers protection from wind and waves, which allows aquatic plants to grow and create an out of the elements place for wildlife to rest and feed.

One of the partnerships the refuge has to meet these restoration needs is with the Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program.

Floodplain forests are a unique and necessary habitat found along the backwaters of the Mississippi River. Through forest inventory, monitoring and restoration projects, staff and partners work hard to sustain and manage these special areas. Floodplain forests are utilized by hundreds of bird species for nesting, feeding and as migratory stopover areas along the Mississippi River Flyway.

Management and Conservation

Refuges use a wide range of land management tools based on the best science available. Some refuges use prescribed fires to mimic natural fires that would have cleared old vegetation from the land, helping native plants to regenerate and local wildlife to thrive. Other refuges contain wilderness areas where land is largely managed passively. The management tools used are aimed at ensuring a balanced conservation approach where both wildlife and people will benefit. At this field station, our conservation toolbox includes but is not limited to prescribed burning, trapping, invasive species invasive species
An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

Learn more about invasive species
removal, bird and bat monitoring, forest inventory and much more!

The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 requires that every national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

Learn more about national wildlife refuge
develop a comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and revise it every 15 years, as needed. 

Science underpins all aspects of National Wildlife Refuge System planning, but comprehensive conservation plans are citizen-centered government at its best. Developing these long-term plans relies on public participation and input. Local communities, volunteers and Friends of national wildlife refuges, state conservation agencies, and such partners as the National Rifle Association and Defenders of Wildlife help guide refuge management through the development of each CCP. CCPs also provide an opportunity to improve and increase recreation critical to connecting people, particularly young people, with nature.  Full Upper Miss River CCP

Our Services

Federal Recreation Passes 

*There is no entrance fee or parking permit required to visit the refuge* 

Staff are issuing passes at the La Crosse District Visitor Center. Please follow the link to see the Visitor Center hours. All offices are closed on federal holidays. 

For fee-based passes, we can only accept cash or check payment. We cannot accept credit card payment. 

Some passes are available for purchase online. To purchase a Senior Annual, Annual, Access or Senior Lifetime Pass, visit the U.S. Geological Survey Online Store. You can find more information about these passes and fee areas, order online or plan your trip to federal public lands at Recreation.gov. 

Passes available: 

  • Senior Lifetime Pass ($80) 
  • Senior Annual Pass ($20) 
  • America the Beautiful Annual Pass ($80) 
  • Military Annual Pass (Free to active military) 
  • Veterans Pass (Free to veterans) 
  • Access Pass (Free, with conditions) Every Kid Outdoors Pass (Free for 4th graders, with completed online voucher) 
Silhouette of a person walking with a shotgun on the tundra

Some commercial, recreational and research activities are allowed on national wildlife refuges only with a special use permit issued by the local office, and are subject to specific conditions and fees. This permit requirement is meant to ensure that all activities at the federal site are...

Law Enforcement

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officers have a wide variety of duties and responsibilities. Officers help visitors understand and obey wildlife protection laws. They work closely with state and local government offices to enforce federal, state and refuge hunting regulations that protect migratory birds and other game species from illegal take and preserve legitimate hunting opportunities.

Laws and Regulations

Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge is known for providing great opportunities for waterfowl hunting, fishing and wildlife observation. Refuge hunting and fishing seasons generally follow state seasons and regulations. To conserve this special place and safeguard the experience for all, we ask you to please observe the public use regulations and hunting regulations.