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National Wildlife Refuge

great blue heron perched in tree, with red foliage behind
W28488 Refuge Rd.
Trempealeau, WI   54661
E-mail: trempealeau@fws.gov
Phone Number: 608-539-2311
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Dikes on Trempealeau Refuge create pools which provide habitat for waterfowl and wading birds, such as great blue herons.
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Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge

Young black terns sit on their floating nest, a great blue heron gracefully flies over the wetland, a gentle breeze blows across the sand prairie, and a wood duck finds shelter in the bottomland forest. Welcome to Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge!

This 6,226-acre Refuge lies within the Mississippi flyway, along the Mississippi River in western Wisconsin. It is an isolated backwater, cut off from the Mississippi and Trempealeau rivers by dikes, providing needed resting and feeding areas for waterfowl and other birds.

The Refuge is situated in a unique geological formation known as the driftless area. Thousands of years ago, glaciers surrounded but did not pass over the land. Blown into mounds, sand and silt from melting glaciers formed the rolling sand prairies of the Refuge.

Wetlands are a prominent feature. Before the railroads arrived and the locks and dams were built, the lands within the Refuge were part of the Mississippi River. As such, these backwaters experienced floods and droughts. Today, using dikes and control structures, managers can mimic this natural cycle by lowering the water to expose mudflats and allow plants to germinate. Migratory waterfowl and marsh birds benefit.

Getting There . . .
From Winona, MN: Take Rt. 43 across the Mississippi River into Wisconsin. Turn right onto Rt. 54 east. Travel 5.7 miles, and take a right onto West Prairie Road. Refuge entrance is on the right after about one mile. From LaCrosse, WI: Take Rt. 53 north to Rt. 54 west. Follow 54 west to Centerville and continue 3.1 miles to West Prairie Road. Turn left on West Prairie Road and drive one mile to Refuge entrance.

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These driving directions are provided as a general guide only. No representation is made or warranty given as to their content, road conditions or route usability or expeditiousness. User assumes all risk of use.

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Wildlife and Habitat

The diverse habitats within Trempealeau Refuge support a variety of wildlife species, including the Federally-threatened bald eagle, the State-endangered osprey, and the State-threatened Blanding's turtle, all of which nest on the Refuge.

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In the late 1800s, prior to the existence of Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge, a railroad was constructed along the Mississippi River and today outlines the Refuge's southern boundary.

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Management Activities
The Service manages Trempealeau Refuge to provide good quality habitat for wildlife, particularly migratory birds which are an entrusted resource.

In the sand prairies, native grasses are restored where non-native grasses have taken over. Successful restorations have involved farming an area for two to three years, then planting it to natives. Controlled burning is used to maintain the vitality of the prairie; each field is burned every three to five years.

Various controls are used on aggressive non-native plant species. Control of leafy spurge is attempted through use of a small insect known as the flea beetle. It is collected in June using sweep nets and moved to new locations both on and off the Refuge. Non-native black locust trees love sandy soil and invade the prairie at every opportunity. Control methods include cutting the tree or sapling down and treating the stump with an herbicide to prevent resprouting.

The Refuge recently worked with the Army Corps of Engineers through the Environmental Management Program to add three manageable wetland units. Over three miles of dikes and four water control structures were constructed to allow manipulation of water levels. At various times of the year, lowering water levels improves food resources; at other times, raising water levels allows access to food and provides rest areas. Non-native plant species are also controlled in the wetlands. In the past, purple loosestrife was controlled using herbicides, but now a beetle is used to combat this invasive plant.