U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service logo A Unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System
Banner graphic displaying the Fish & Wildlife Service logo and National Wildlife Refuge System tagline

Driftless Area
National Wildlife Refuge

lavender northern monkshood blossom and foliage
401 Business Hwy 18 N
McGregor, IA   52157
E-mail: driftless@fws.gov
Phone Number: 563-873-3423
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
The refuge protects habitat for the Federally threatened northern monkshood.
Gray horizontal line
  Wildlife and Habitat

Continued . . .

The Driftless area in general is a transition area between midwestern prairies and eastern forests and thus has always harbored a variety of habitats. The terrain has been described as dynamic, and the vegetation has probably never reached a climax state.

The majority of refuge lands are oak/hickory or maple/basswood hardwood forest. There are also some remnant native white pine stands on rocky cliffs and balsam fir on algific talus slopes. Most of the forest habitat was previously logged, and some was even cleared for farming.

The forests provide habitat for resident animals like the eastern wild turkey, white-tailed deer, and occasional ruffed grouse. Many birds, like the magnificent pileated woodpecker and colorful American redstart, also find homes here. The forests support many migrating warblers, hawks, and other birds. Refuge staff is restoring some of the agricultural fields to native hardwood trees and managing the forests for a variety of wildlife, especially migratory songbirds.

The most unique habitat on the refuge, of course, is the algific talus slope or cold air slope. These are small areas, usually a few thousand square feet, on a hillside where cold air flows out through vents from underground crevices where ice is present. This air flow creates a constant cold environment for ice-age relict species like the Iowa Pleistocene land snail.

The vegetation on algific slopes is similar to that found in more northern, boreal climates, with ferns, mosses, liverworts, birch trees, and evergreen species. Beautiful lady's slipper orchids and other flowers grow here, while only feet away in the warmer forest are more common woodland flowers like Dutchman's breeches and trout lily.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are commonly seen feeding on columbine, and bumblebees float by on their way to pollinate northern monkshood plants. The typically rocky habitats and cliffs of algific slopes provide home to small mammals, insects, and the occasional nesting wren. Timber rattlesnakes have not been documented on the refuge but do occur in northeast Iowa.

Native prairie remnants exist on the Howard Creek unit on rocky hillsides that were not suitable for farming. This area of Clayton County historically contained more prairie, and former agricultural fields are being restored to native prairie. We have been using prescribed fire to rejuvenate the remnant prairies and control invading trees and shrubs.

Streams are present on nearly all of the refuge units. They provide habitat for fish, turtles, frogs, great blue herons, wood ducks, and other water birds. Springs at the base of algific talus slopes often feed adjacent trout streams.

- Back -