National Wildlife Refuge System

Happy Anniversary!

Cannon Refuge, MO, has several trails where hikers may glimpse deer.
Credit: USFWS

August 15, 2014 - Seventy-five years ago this month, tiny Susquehanna National Wildlife Refuge was established at the mouth of the Susquehanna River in Maryland.  Fifty years ago, national wildlife refuges were established in from Maryland, North Carolina Idaho and Arizona. Happy Anniversary!


Cannon Refuge, MO, holds an annual youth fishing day in May.
Credit: USFWS

Clarence Cannon National Wildlife Refuge in the Mississippi River floodplain of Missouri has been highlighting its 50 year milestone at many of its annual events, including presentations during the Missouri Department of Conservation’s hunting and fishing days and a deer hunt for individuals with mobility or visual impairments (October 18 – 19, 2014 and January 3 – 4, 2015). The refuge’s Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crew built a float for several local fall parades.  Winners of a photo contest will be featured in a 50th anniversary calendar.


Clarence Cannon Refuge was established in 1964 with funds from sales of Federal Duck Stamps to provide a resting and feeding area for migratory birds.  It was named for Congressman Clarence Cannon who was influential in establishing the refuge. Nearly 300 species of birds visit the refuge and they are counted weekly. Dabbling ducks, rails, great blue herons and Eastern snapping turtles are all seen regularly on the refuge.


Clarence Cannon National Wildlife Refuge Facebook page


Desert Sidewinder
The desert sidewinder found on Cibola Refuge, AZ/CA, uses a sidewinding movement to travel across the hot sand with only a small part of its body touching at one time.
Credit: USFWS

Cibola National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona and California is a desert oasis in the floodplain of the lower Colorado River.  The land was part of the ancestral and traditional home of the Yuma Tribes, principally the Mohave and Quechan. The tribes farmed the floodplain, which flooded annually depositing rich soils for crops.  In the 1800s, steamboats began landing in the community of Cibola to bring food and supplies to settlements of ranchers, farmers and miners.


The refuge was established in 1964 to provide wintering grounds for migratory birds. Because of the Colorado River’s life-sustaining water, wildlife thrives in this desert environment where temperatures reach 120 degrees in the summer and the average rainfall is two inches per year.


The lower Colorado River habitat is especially important for native fish like the razorback sucker, bonytail chub, and desert pupfish. Western and Clark's grebe chicks ride the backs of their parents as they cruise along a shoreline under the branches of cottonwood and willow trees, which provide rookeries for great blue herons and egrets. The tall trees offer colorful migratory songbirds like the vermillion flycatcher a place to perch and watch for an insect meal.


Redhead Drake
The marshes of Cedar Island Refuge, NC, provide wintering habitat for red headed drakes and thousands of other ducks and colonial waterbirds.
Credit: USFWS

Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge also established in 1964, is at the end of a peninsula in Pamlico Sound, North Carolina. The refuge consists of about 11,000 acres of brackish marsh and another 3,500 acres of pocosin and woodland habitat. Pocosins, sometimes called shrub bogs, are mossy wetlands in the Atlantic coastal plain. They are formed from thousands of years or organic matter that look like black muck.  The marsh and surrounding waters provide wintering habitat for thousands of ducks and nesting habitat for colonial waterbirds. The refuge also protects American alligators and brown pelicans. The refuge is open to fishing and waterfowl hunting, photography and non-motorized boating from two boat ramps.


Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge in Idaho, also celebrating a 50th anniversary, will host its first accessible deer hunts between August and November.  Accessible waterfowl hunt blinds are available by reservation; deer hunt permits will be awarded by lottery.  The 2,774 acre refuge beside the Selkirk Mountains in northern Idaho provides habitat for moose, elk, deer, bear, otter, bald eagles and migratory waterfowl.  The refuge is about 20 miles south of the Canadian border.

Kootenai Refuge, ID, provides habitat for moose as well as ADA accessible hunts for deer and waterfowl.
Credit: USFWS


Tundra swans, Canada geese and ducks rest and feed on the refuge as ponds begin to thaw in late February. Snipe and ruffed grouse offer spectacular courtship displays. This May, five goslings hatched in an abandoned eagle’s nest about 60 – 70 feet in the air. Watch the amazing video as the goslings leaped from their perch. 


Friends of Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge is an all volunteer non-profit organization that supports the refuge. The Friends offer regularly scheduled bird walks with a special Art in the Wild weekend of art and music over Labor Day weekend.


In 1939, the island that would become Susquehanna Refuge in Maryland and over 13,000 acres of water were closed to hunting migratory waterfowl by presidential order and established as a national wildlife refuge. The island had once covered with wild celery, pond weeds, redhead grass and other desirable waterfowl food sources and was visited by more than 500,000 canvasback and redhead ducks. These rich areas of aquatic growth began declining in the 1960's due to changes in the water quality and quantity. Development above the Conowingo Dam caused more rapid drainage and greater water flow through the dam. Currents in the upper Chesapeake Bay deposited heavy loads of silt in the Susquehanna flats area. The remaining waterfowl vegetation was destroyed by Hurricane Agnes in 1972. Only a few thousand geese remained around the refuge during winter.

Susquehanna Refuge
Susquehanna Refuge, MD, is closed to the public to provide protected habitat for ducks and other waterbirds.
Credit: USFWS


Dredging of the Susquehanna River by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provided an opportunity to restore high-quality nesting and brood rearing habitat for black ducks and other waterbirds. The island has been built up with clean dredged material to create approximately 11 acres of upland habitat in a horseshoe shape around and including the existing island.


No public use facilities are located on the refuge, and the island is closed to the public to provide a protected place for wildlife.

Last updated: August 20, 2014