Fall Fun At National Wildlife Refuges

whooping cranes Photo Credit: Steve Hillebrand/NFWSNational 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.)

October 7

October 8-14

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.

October 14

October 15-21

  • 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.

October 18

  • 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.

October 19

  • 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.

October 21

  • 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

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