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National Wildlife Refuge

refuge visitor center with wetland in foreground
1434 316th Lane
Missouri Valley, IA   51555 - 7033
E-mail: desoto@fws.gov
Phone Number: 712-388-4800
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
The refuge visitor center contains artifacts from the steamboat Bertrand and intrepretive displays about the natural history of the area.
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DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge

DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge is open to the public following the flood event of 2011. The visitor center is open with a limited selection of Steamboat Bertrand artifacts on display. For more information, please see our website at http://www.fws.gov/refuge/desoto/

DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge is part of a network of refuges devoted to preserving and restoring increasingly scarce habitat for migratory waterfowl and other wildlife. The refuge is comprised of 8,358 acres in Iowa and Nebraska and lies in the Missouri River Valley floodplain on a former meander of the Missouri River.

Each year, especially during the fall, spectacular flights of ducks and geese mark the changing seasons along this traditional waterfowl flyway. An interesting assortment of warblers, raptors, shorebirds, and other bird life can be observed also.

The 1968 excavation of the steamboat Bertrand, which sank in 1865, adds a major historical emphasis to the refuge program. The 200,000 pieces in the Bertrand Collection provide one of the most significant assemblages of Civil War era artifacts in the country.

A former oxbow of the Missouri River, DeSoto Lake, provides recreational use for up to 250,000 visitors annually. The DeSoto Visitor Center provides an introduction to the refuge, exhibits the Bertrand Collection, and contains interpretive displays on the historical development of the Missouri River Basin, the ecological impacts of that development, and the natural history of the area.

Getting There . . .
DeSoto Refuge is located midway between the farming communities of Blair, Nebraska, and Missouri Valley, Iowa, just off of U.S. Highway 30.

From the Omaha, Nebraska, metropolitan area, take I-29 North to Missouri Valley, Iowa. Exit at mile marker 75. Head West on US Highway 30 approximately six miles to the refuge entrance; the Visitor Center is an additional one mile south into the refuge. It is an approximately 25-minute drive to the refuge from Omaha.

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Wildlife and Habitat

DeSoto Refuge hosts a wealth of wildlife resources, including such threatened species as the bald eagle, and manages a variety of habitats that provide resting, foraging, and nesting opportunities for nearly 250 species of resident and migratory birds.

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DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge lies on the wide plain formed by prehistoric flooding and shifting of the Missouri River. Each spring and fall since the end of the last ice age, spectacular flights of ducks and geese have marked the changing seasons along this traditional waterfowl flyway.

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    Recreation and Education Opportunities
Environmental Education
Wildlife Observation
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Management Activities
DeSoto's primary wildlife management role is to serve as a stopover area for migrating ducks and geese. Managed waterfowl habitat includes two moist soil management units, permanent and seasonal wetlands and the DeSoto Lake.

Approximately 1,300 of the refuge's 8,358 acres are farmed by neighboring farmers through formal agreements with the refuge. A portion of the crop is left in the field as a supplementary food source for resident wildlife and migratory birds.

Over 1,500 acres of agricultural fields on the refuge have been reverted to grasslands since 1965. This trend will continue until the farming program reaches approximately 475 acres. These lands are being restored to high-diversity native prairie and bottomland forest. Grassland restoration provides important nesting habitat for grassland-dependent species, winter shelter for many other species of wildlife, and a more diverse natural environment. Prescribed burning and mowing are used to maintain healthy stands of native grasses in these areas.