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Ohio River Islands
National Wildlife Refuge

The refuge's Manchester islands rise abruptly from the Ohio River.
3982 Waverly Road
Williamstown, WV   26187
E-mail: OhioRiverIslands@fws.gov
Phone Number: 304-375-2923
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
The Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuges extends south to the Manchester islands in Kentucky.
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Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge
Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1990 to protect, conserve, and restore habitat for wildlife native to the river's floodplain. The refuge consists of twenty-two islands and three mainland tracts scattered along nearly 400 miles of the Ohio River. Most of the refuge's 3300 acres of land and underwater habitat are located in West Virginia; however, Pennsylvania and Kentucky each have two refuge islands.

The refuge is important in conserving the "wild" Ohio in a river system occupied by many competing interests. Refuge islands are gradually returning to forested conditions after years of farming, oil and gas extraction, and other activities. Planning is underway to evaluate mainland wetlands and backwater areas for possible inclusion in the refuge.

Getting There . . .
Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge headquarters are located at 3982 Waverly Road outside of Williamstown, WV.

From I-77 take exit #185; follow WV-14 (Highland Ave.) 1.3 miles; turn right onto Waverly Road (E. 4th St.); continue 1.9 miles to site.

From Marietta, OH, cross Williamstown Bridge, take first left after DaVinci's Restaurant onto Waverly Road (E. 4th St.); continue 1.9 miles to site.

From Vienna, WV, take WV-14 N to Williamstown, turn right onto Highland Ave; take first left onto Waverly Road (E. 4th St.): continue 1.9 miles to site

Most refuge property is accessible only by boat, however, Middle Island adjacent to St. Marys, WV has bridge access from the mainland. From State Route 2 in St. Marys, turn onto George Street and continue two blocks to the island's bridge. Contact the refuge for information about locating other refuge properties.

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Wildlife and Habitat

The refuge's islands include habitats ranging from recently abandoned farm fields to pockets of old-growth timber. Small wetlands occupy areas on Middle and Grape islands. Prior to European settlement, impressive forests of giant sycamores, silver maple, cottonwood and other trees covered the islands in mature bottomland hardwood forest. Today, the refuge is working to restore this habitat through natural re-growth and tree planting.

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The Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge stands out as a very different place along the Ohio River. Barges burdened with coal move slowly but efficiently through the water, power plants and industry loom on the riverbanks, jet skis rush by catching the waves of other boats. Refuge islands are places apart from all the busy activity and offer wildlife a chance to remain part of the river scene.

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Management Activities
Most of the mature bottomland hardwood forest once common in the Ohio River's floodplain no longer exists. The refuge is working to restore this important wildlife habitat by allowing nature to regrow the forest and by planting open areas with native trees. One of the biggest obstacles to this effort is the invasion of the islands by non-native plants such as Japanese knotweed, mile-a-minute, and multi-flora rose. Intensive control efforts, including the use of herbicides, are part of the refuge's land management strategy.

In addition to protecting islands, the refuge is looking at the potential for protecting mainland wetlands and embayments along the Ohio River. These critical habitats provide shallow-water feeding areas for wading birds, nursery habitat for many species of fish, sheltered refugia for wintering waterfowl, and other benefits.