National Wildlife Refuge System
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Cranes and Ultalite

Go Wild This Summer

Feel the urge to do something wild this summer? And you need to do it on a shoestring budget? Consider these out-of-the-ordinary events on National Wildlife Refuges. The National Wildlife Refuge System, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is the world’s premier system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve America’s fish, wildlife and plants. There is a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of most major cities.

Here is a recent sampling of upcoming events:

See the eagles
July − Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Minnesota
Take a volunteer-led eagle-watching tour at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month through July. Guided tours leave at 6:00 p.m. by four-wheel-drive van from the visitor center at 3815 American Blvd. East. Bring binoculars and wear walking shoes. To reserve a place, call 952-858-0740 at least 24 hours in advance. A $5-per-person donation is requested.

For more information: or 952-854-5900.

Count butterflies
Saturday, July 11 − Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, Iowa
Join staff and volunteers in roaming the refuge for a butterfly count. Binoculars and guide books will be provided. Learn about butterflies and the plants they depend upon. The event will run from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

For more information: or 515-994-3400.

Watch a unique flying lesson
July and August − Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, Wisconsin
Catch a daybreak flight training for the whooping crane chicks raised on Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, in preparation for their trip south this fall. Each morning at sunrise during July and August, weather-permitting, ultralight airplanes lead the newest crop of endangered whooping cranes in swoop and soar lessons. You can watch the giant-winged birds and the overhead action free from the Point B observation tower on the refuge. Flight lessons are canceled if it’s windy or raining.

For more information: or 608-565-2551.

Take a red wolf howling safari
Summer long − Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, North Carolina
Track a wolf at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Cars caravan to the howling site on Wednesday nights throughout the summer, weather-permitting. There’s a nominal charge of $5 to participate in the two-hour guided program. To reserve a place, call 252-796-5600. Bring a flashlight and insect repellant. No pets allowed.

For more information:
For information on the refuge: or 252-473-1131.

Take an interpretive paddle tour
Selected dates in July and August − Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon
Bring your own canoe or kayak, and you can enjoy an hour and a half guided paddle tour of the refuge. You’re responsible for bringing life jackets, a whistle, water and snacks. Refuge employees will supply binoculars for viewing hawks, osprey and other creatures. Advance reservations are needed.

For more information or to reserve online:
For information on the refuge: or 541-867-4550.

Catch a historic how-to
Sunday, August 9 – Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Washington
Learn how Native Americans made hunting tools from stone and bone. Enjoy demonstrations of historic Chinookan tool making, plant harvesting and weaving from natural materials. 12:00 (noon) to 3:30 p.m. at the Cathlapotle Plankhouse. The plankhouse is open regularly on weekends from 12:00 (noon) to 4:00 p.m. through October.

For more information:
For information on the refuge: or 360-887-4106.

Enjoy a wildlife festival
Saturday, August 22 − Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, Vermont
Take in the second annual Nulhegan Wildlife Festival, timed to coincide with the North Country Moose Festival in northeastern Vermont and northern New Hampshire. Enjoy guided river walks, speakers, a flycasting demo, a photo workshop and kids’ activities. Live fish and birds of prey from the region will be on display. The festival runs from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Nulhegan Basin Division Visitor Contact Center.

Contact: Mark Maghini at 802-962-5240 ext. 112 or
For more information:

Go on a butterfly hunt
Saturday, September 12 − Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, Iowa
Take part in the annual Monarch Madness! Staff and volunteers will catch, tag and release as many monarch butterflies as possible. The event takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

For more information: or 515-994-3400.

Go multicultural
Saturday, September 26, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. − Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, Washington
Take in a multicultural celebration of the history, economy and environment of the Nisqually River Watershed at the annual Nisqually Watershed Festival. Highlights include tribal drumming and dancing, bagpipers and live animal shows. Kids can take part in critter parades, make salmon art, step inside a 30-foot mock salmon and see the world from the perspective of a salmon, and peer at Sound creatures inside a live touch tank. Other events include guided walks and tours and the famous Nisqually Salmon Bake.

For more information: or 360-753-9467.

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