National Wildlife Refuge System

Pee Dee Refuge, NC, Celebrates 50 Years

Pee Dee Refuge has several trails and boardwalks, including a portion of the Charles Kuralt Trail.
Credit: Keith Hendrickson

May 13, 2014 - It’s the busy season for Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina: for 15 of the refuge’s 50 years, it has hosted all the second and third graders from five nearby schools.  About 500 children come for an environmental field day, many remembering the experience years later according to refuge manager J.D. Bricken.

“We’re in a rural county but kids still have no idea what goes on outside,” says Bricken. “I grew up knowing which snakes to catch and which ones you don’t want to mess with,” he recalls, mentioning the children’s surprise now at seeing grubs and beetles under an overturned log.

Wood ducks are among thousands of waterfowl wintering or nesting at Pee Dee Refuge, NC.
Credit: Will Stuart

Pee Dee Refuge was established in 1964 to provide habitat for migratory waterfowl. Pee Dee is the name of both a river running through the refuge and the Pee Dee Indian Nation.  In addition to more than 8,000 acres of bottomland hardwoods, upland pine forest, cropland and moist soil areas, the refuge manages 21 conservation easements in seven counties. These easements are privately owned but protected from development.

Fourteen species of waterfowl have been counted at Pee Dee Refuge, most coming in November and staying until early March. Wood ducks stay year round to nest on the refuge, often in nesting areas created by beaver dams. Impoundments are flooded or drained to create feeding and resting areas. When impoundments are planted in corn, local farmers keep 80 percent of the crop while 20 percent is left for the waterfowl.  Other natural areas remain flooded to provide aquatic vegetation, also used by waterfowl.  

Birdwatching opportunities abound at Pee Dee Refuge, NC. These red winged blackbirds were photographed by Keith Hendrickson.

Hunting is an important recreational activity in the community: 300 people apply for 50 spaces on each of three turkey hunting days. There are seven quail hunting days and an annual youth shotgun hunt. In 2013, North Carolina Sportsmanmagazine named Pee Dee Refuge the best public deer hunt in the state. The hardwood bottomland forest offers an unbroken block of public land in which to coon hunt without fear of crossing into private hunting clubs or posted land. Fishing for largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish and catfish is open from April 15 – October 15. There are several loop and boardwalk trails where birdwatching can yield excellent photographs – be sure to check the galleries of wildlife photographers Will Stuart and Keith Hendrickson. Part of the Charles Kuralt Trail, named for the famed broadcaster, also goes through Pee Dee Refuge.




Last updated: May 13, 2014