National Wildlife Refuge Week, held annually during the second full week of October, celebrates the world-class recreation brought to Americans by the National Wildlife Refuge System, the nation’s largest network of public lands and waters managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
National wildlife refuges have been part of America’s proud natural heritage since the first refuge was established in 1903. Refuges provide vital habitat for thousands of species and access to world-class recreation, from fishing, hunting and boating to nature watching, photography and environmental education. You can find at least one refuge in every state and every U.S. territory.
Here’s a sampling of 2017 activities across the country, from special events, festivals, tours and even chances to volunteer to help wildlife. (Reservations may be required; check FWS website links for further details.)
- Celebration 5K Run/Walk, Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, Mayville, Wisconsin
Celebrate Refuge Week with a race on the auto tour route. A road rally (scavenger hunt) and other fun activities will follow the morning run/walk.
- Conservation Day on the WPA, St. Croix Wetland Management District, Wisconsin
Collect milkweed seed on waterfowl production areas (WPAs) to help see other WPAs.
- Youth in the Outdoors, Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Michigan
Loads of activities to choose from, including mini, half-day and long sessions.
- Sunset Walks Every Night, Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, New Jersey
Join the Friends of Great Swamp nightly to watch the many species of migrating ducks that descend into the refuge pools to spend the night.
October 8 and October 14
- Becoming an Outdoors Family Programs, Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, Illinois
Join one or more of several free classes and activities. Experienced birders will lead a Birding Tour on October 8, starting at 8:15 a.m. On October 14, an Outdoor Spanish Immersion Class will help you learn a new language, which you can practice on a short hike with a bilingual ranger.
- Log Cabin Day Festival, Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, Southern Indiana
Enjoy a festival at Myers Cabin, sponsored by Muscatatuck Wildlife Society, featuring old-time crafts, music, wildlife exhibits and children’s activities. From October 8-14, a normally “closed” area of the refuge will be open for bird viewing.
- Arts and Crafts Nature Festival, Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, California
Fun-filled day, all free. You’ve got a range of choices: origami workshop; nature quilt; create a fish print tote bag; family bird walk; get creative with wildlife-shaped desserts; or take a salt marsh walk. The 2017 California winning Junior Duck Stamp art will be displayed.
- Family Bird Walk, Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, California
Let family walks add to your family memories. We start by helping kids create their own bird watching field guides, then head to the trails. A limited number of binoculars are available to borrow. Recommended for children ages 5-10.
- Junior Ranger with Nature Play, Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, California
Become a Junior Ranger to celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week. Participate in hands-on activities to earn your badge. Best for kids 8-11. Nature walk is part of the program.
- Family Day, Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge, Missouri
It’s a day of variety: guided hikes in the Loess Hills, watch waterfowl through spotting scopes, learn about reptiles and amphibians, and learn the tools that wildlife biologists use.
- National Wildlife Refuge Round Up, Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, Texas
Enjoy the beauty of the refuge and family fun such as archery, fishing, BB guns, hiking, live animals, nature photography and art activities.
- 20th Annual Wild Things, Southeast Louisiana Refuge Complex, Louisiana
With free admission, parking and activities, Wild Things is a fun day for the whole family to connect with the wild resources of the refuge. You can enjoy Bayou boat tours, live animal exhibits, live music, kids face painting—all free.
- Philly Fall Nature Fest, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, Pennsylvania
It’s the biggest event of the year, filled with free fun for the whole family. Fishing, guided nature walks, kayak tours on Darby Creek, archery, live animals, music and trolley shuttle tours.
- The Big Sit! Birding Festival, Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, Texas
The refuge will host The Big Sit! The rules couldn’t be easier for this national event: Join a 17-foot circle and identify all the birds you can see or hear.
- Photo Contest Awards, Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, South Carolina
Free light refreshments and a chance to see the winning photos of the 2017 contest. Join photographer Robert Rommel at 3:15 p.m. for his discussion about the key elements that give impact to nature photographs.
- Second Saturday Stewardship, Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, Iowa
Give back to your community. Volunteers will be collecting seeds to help restore prairie habitat at the refuge.
- Junior Refuge Ranger Day, Desert National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada
Day of family fun when participants of all ages can earn Junior Refuge Ranger pins: hands-on learning, crafts and much more.
- Ding” Darling Days, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Florida
A week of eco-activities with free tram tours, live wildlife presentations, hot dogs, kids’ crafts and other family activities. Birding, boating, paddle-boarding and kayaking fill the week. The 29th annual celebration ends with Conservation Art Day on October 21, where Federal Duck Stamp winners, other artists, cartooning and a photography tram tour will highlight a day devoted to Jay Norwood (Ding) Darling’s legacy as the first Duck Stamp artist and a Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist.
- Creepy Critters Trick or Treat Event, Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, La Crosse District, Wisconsin
Get ready for a howlin’ good time: Trick or Treat around the refuge to learn about “creepy critters” like bats, owls, lamprey, moths, snakes, frogs and more! Fill your brain with facts and your bag with treats! Live animals, storytelling, face painting, puppet show and more.
- Annual Bison Auction, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Oklahoma
The refuge annually rounds up its free-ranging bison and sells surplus animals at an auction open to the public. It has become a large event with many local spectators and buyers from across the country.
- Wildlife Festival, Patuxent Research Refuge, Maryland
Take in a free festival for Refuge Week. Enjoy live animals, children’s crafts, tram tours, scientific demonstrations, and behind-the-scenes research tours to see where endangered whooping cranes and sea ducks are raised and studied.
- Wildlife Celebration, Red River National Wildlife Refuge, Northwestern Louisiana
Enjoy a day full of free, wildlife-themed activities and events in honor of Refuge Week. Highlights include canoeing, archery, an animal skull-ID maze and a story trail.
Photo credit: Steve Hillebrand/NFWS