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Neal Smith
National Wildlife Refuge

bison calf nursing from cow
9981 Pacific Street
Prairie City, IA   50228
E-mail: nealsmith@fws.gov
Phone Number: 515-994-3400
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
Bison have been re-introduced to the refuge as part of the effort to restore the tallgrass prairie ecosystem.
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Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge

Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, located just 25 minutes east of Des Moines, Iowa, was established in 1990. Its mission is to re-construct tallgrass prairie and restore oak savanna on 8,654 acres of the Walnut Creek watershed and to provide a major environmental education facility focusing on prairie, oak savanna, and human interaction.

The refuge has been designated a Fish and Wildlife Service Land Management and Research Demonstration Area. It will facilitate development, testing, teaching, publishing, and demonstration of state-of-the-art management techniques for fish, wildlife, and plant conservation.

The Prairie Learning Center facilities include a visitor center with classrooms, exhibit area, theater, and bookstore. Miles of paved trails radiate from the center, and an auto tour through the 740-acre bison/elk enclosure is open all year. Teacher workshops, birding, hunting, and nature watching are some of the outdoor activities featured for thousands of visitors each year.

Getting There . . .
The refuge is located 18 miles east of Des Moines, Iowa, on State Highway 163. Follow the refuge directional signs just south of Prairie City at exit 18. Travelers on Interstate I-80 should use exit number 155 at Colfax and follow directional signs approximately 7 miles south on Highway 117 to the refuge.

Get Google map and directions to this refuge/WMD from a specified address:

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NOTE: When using this feature, you will be leaving the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service domain. We do not control the content or policies of the site you are about to visit. You should always check site policies before providing personal information or reusing content.

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

Tallgrass prairie and savanna ecosystems are globally endangered.

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Legislation officially authorizing Walnut Creek National Wildlife Refuge was signed into law on September 5, 1990, by President George H. Bush.

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    Recreation and Education Opportunities
Environmental Education
Wildlife Observation
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Management Activities
Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge has the unprecedented task of reconstructing a highly degraded ecosystem. The tallgrass prairie is virtually extinct. The refuge's job is to restore as many functions of that tallgrass ecosystem as possible. This includes bringing back not only major native grasses and wildflowers, but native wildlife as well.

Refuge staff and volunteers are working with conservation officers, schools, scientists, and prairie enthusiasts to preserve a piece of Iowa's natural heritage. Rare prairie and savanna seeds are collected, studied, sown, and tended. Small savanna and prairie remnants within refuge boundaries are protected. Mowing, brush cutting, and controlled burning are used to manage both reconstructed and remnant prairie sites. Ongoing research is guiding the restoration process. The knowledge gained here will be made available to other ecosystem restoration project managers.

The refuge restoration process has already provided a diversity of life, including hundreds of plant species; over 200 bird species; nearly 100 species of mammals; scores of amphibians, reptiles, and fish; and countless thousands of insect species. Bison and elk have been re-introduced to the refuge to demonstrate the natural role of large herbivores in the tallgrass ecosystem.