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Bell Mountain Wilderness – St. Francois Mountains

DSCF2232I want to peek an interest for readers in this beautiful little area in SE Missouri, and I hope I can do that with a short little taste of what it has to offer. We paid a visit to the area several weeks ago, and must say it is one of the more picturesque parts of Missouri I have experienced.

One aspect of the area I find fascinating is that it is so close to a major metro area, being at most a 2 hour drive from STL, yet it is by no means overused.  On a saturday morning, you could be down there by 8 am, and have a great day hiking, or even make it an overnighter if you like.  There are 10-12 miles of hiking trails – doable in a day for sure, but also perfect for an easy day with an overnight stay.  You can also get to the top of Bell Mountain and turn around, leaving out a trail loop and do that all together in about 7 miles.

DSCF2261The views from the top are outstanding.  Having said that, views are better when leaves are off the trees, but even now from the top your payoff will be worth it.  On top of that, the hike up is nice as well.  There are beautiful plant species and wildlife and birds also.

This KMZ file is a real helper for your trail options.  Here is a page for more info on Missouri Wilderness.  If you need help on how the KMZ file works, shoot me an email.DSCF2249


Current River Magic and Mayhem

The Current River of Missouri holds a special place in my heart.  It has been the scene of the creation of many of the outdoor memories I have enjoyed with my family since we moved from Colorado to Missouri 15 years ago.

We have spent time on or near the river in many sections, but most have been just downstream from Montauk State Park – sometimes after a day of trout park fishing and after the crowds got to be too much.  There are some really magical spots here – Tan Vat, Baptist Camp, and some I do not want to talk about here even though I know plenty of other people know of them.


Ice hanging off the bluffs at Baptist Camp access – Current River

My son and I went there a few weeks ago, and as always, it was an awesome trip – some good fishing, food, and conversation.

The locals in the area are apparently a bit upset by the proposed new management plans for the Ozark National Scenic Riverways – at least that is the impression left with me by the gentleman that mysteriously appeared on the bluff overlooking the hole I was floating my fly through.

I asked him if he was fishing. He said, “No, just riding my four wheeler and thought I’d come down and have a look at the river.”  I had not heard the motor and just figured I had been focused intently on the matter that had been occupying my attention until his arrival.

I told him the fishing had been fair, but given the weather I was pretty happy with the results anyhow.  Apparently he was doing some angling of his own – for a tiny sliver of an opportunity to bend my ear about what he was really there for.

He continued, “Ya, if the government gets their way, we won’t even be able to walk in the Riverway, let alone ride our four wheelers.” I knew the first part was ridiculous, but perhaps not the second.  I kind of felt sorry for him.  He was a local and they were accustomed to doing their thing in a land they thought of as theirs. But that sympathy was a few hours from changing.

I do not remember how I extricated myself from the conversation, but a couple of hours later we had finished a good chili dinner and were sitting by the fire talking about life in the tranquility that facilitates deeper thoughts and talk.

English: This is the NPS map of the Ozark Nati...

English: This is the NPS map of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways national park in southern Missouri. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That ended when the rumble of a 4-wheel drive truck became audible coming down the hill road above.  Quickly we could hear also the thumping of deep bass playing some lousy country music.  The truck turned down the lane to where we had camp set up, but turned around when they saw us.  I thought all was good until the truck wheeled to a stop where the road was directly above,

Out came their spotlight, undoubtedly used on many Ozark deer, and it turned on our camp.  I was armed, but not about to open a volley up a hill at some likely drunk redneck teenagers.  A rebel yell ended our spotlighting and off they went.

We turned in about 10.  The four wheelers came into camp about 2.  Back and forth across the river they went through the night.

The man on the bluff no longer has my sympathy.  We have little in the way of truly wild places in Missouri.  If a few overweight locals are offended by the requirement of some effort to enjoy God’s creation, it might be for the best.  It is for the best.

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Finding Public Land to Hunt in Kansas

I have lived in several Western states like Colorado and Alaska and now

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reside in Missouri.  Alaska and Colorado have vast tracts of public land you can hunt, fish, camp, or do whatever (pretty much) you want.

When we moved to Missouri 15 years ago, I was worried I would not be able to find good places to hunt without buying land, leasing it, or begging.  Since I had no money back then, the first two options weren’t options.  I started researching state and federal land in the state and found the options were actually awesome.

However, finding this land was not easy.  It was all out there on Missouri Department of Conservation sites as well as through the USFS.  But the organization of the data was cumbersome.  I developed a resource thru the site Family-Outdoors.com at http://family-outdoors.com/MO-Public-Hunting.htm. I guess other folks were having the same issues because it gets more visitors than any other page at Family-Outdoors.

So recently, I encountered the same issues with some slightly different twists researching public hunting land in Kansas.  The Kansas site at KDWPT is often hard to navigate and has many dead links to pages.  So I thought I’d create what at least for me is a more user-friendly and easy to use page with the information.  It’s all on one page and easy to move around.  The page is at http://www.family-outdoors.com/Kansas-Public-Hunting.html

I think you will find the page informative.  If you have comments, there’s a “Contact Us” link at the bottom, or you can comment here on this blog.


Minnesota Wolf Killings Seem Senseless

I grew up in Alaska, a state not known for being overly sensitive to the plight of the wolf. But I am the sort that questions what he hears anecdotally, so I read some of the classic literature on wolves – Murie’s “Wolves of Denali” and Mowat’s “Never Cry Wolf” are two that come to mind. My take on what I know is that in a balanced and healthy ecosystem they play a vital role in its function. They are certainly not wanton killers.

It bothers me that so many ranchers oppose their reintroduction to former habitats. It enrages me when people exterminate them in places where they have been reintroduced and are protected. The link below is to a news story from the USFWS and summarizes a heinous crime followed by far too lenient punishment.

The two men convicted effectively stole from all Americans in perpertrating the crime. Surely a sentance of a year or more was in order.

Full Article

Wildlife Refuges of Nebraska

We have talked about the value of wildlife refuges in our previous two posts on wildlife refuges of North Dakota and South Dakota.  Today we move on to Nebraska.  Again, for those from non-Midwestern states, it may come as a surprise to you that these states have regions of vast beauty and immense value for wildlife.  Our purpose is to enhance the reader’s understanding of this value by introducing these areas and highlighting their features.

This 3,350 acre refuge was originally developed as part of the effort to mitigate the destructive power of channelizing the Missouri River and its associated loss of over a half-million acres of prime wildlife habitat.  Though the acreage of refuges set aside to accomplish this is small relative to the lost habitat, it does serve a useful purpose.

The refuge is located on land that was at one time an island of silt deposited as the Boyer River made its confluence with the Missouri.  Engineering altered dramatically the area where the rivers met, and more recent efforts have sought to undo some of these changes.  To see how these efforts are being executed, see here.

Trees and native plants have been and continue to be reintroduced to the refuge. These efforts have gone some way to improving habitat for raptors, wood ducks, and kingfishers in the region.  In the upland portion of the refuge, additional efforts have been undertaken to restore the assumed diversity of plant species present originally. This has resulted in dramatic increases in whitetail deer, turkeys, pheasants, and other species.

Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge Map

Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge Map-Courtesy USFWS

Printable Map-PDF Format

Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge Marshlands

Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge Marshlands – Courtesy USFWS

This little known refuge is in the starkly beautiful sandhills region of Nebraska.  Its 45,818 acres of land put it in the upper echelon of lower 48 wildlife refuges by size.  Its abundance of bird life is astounding, with as many as 200,00 waterfowl present at a time, as many as 20 bald eagles present at a time, and over 275 bird species having been documented.

The refuge is also home to mule deer, whitetail deer, and antelope, just to name a few. Hunting and fishing is permitted in the refuge under the regulations that apply.  If you are planning a visit to just

Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge Dancing Grouse

Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge Dancing Grouse – Courtesy USFWS

enjoy the natural surroundings and observe wildlife, the refuge has created a Calendar of Natural Events, which is a great planning tool.  One popular activity is observation of the sharp-tailed grouse dance in April.  The refuge has observation blinds that can be reserved for this event.

Camping is not allowed on the refuge and the closest public camping area is 50 miles north at Smith Lake Wildlife Management Area.  There are however options at both Alliance and Oshkosh, Nebraska.  This remote refuge really captures the essence of why these places exist and is a great destination for people who appreciate what they have to offer.

Prairie Sandhills - Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Prairie Sandhills – Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge – Courtesy USFWS

Ducks at Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Ducks at Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge – Courtesy USWS

  • Fort Niobrara National Wildlife RefugeMap

Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge is just East of Valentine, Nebraska and is a very interesting place to visit.  It encompasses 19,131 acres and is home to a herd of over 300 bison and 100 elk.

Bison at Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge

Bison at Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge – Courtesy USFWS

The area was originally  established by Teddy Roosevelt (January 1912) to preserve the then dwindling bison and elk herds. Evidence of a much longer history however are revealed through the finds of fossils of long-jawed mastodon, giant bison, and three-toed horses.  This history dates back as far as 13,000,000 years up through the last ice age 12,000 years ago.

A 6 mile portion of the 76 mile stretch of the Niobrara River that has been designated to be part of the National Scenic Riverway System runs through this refuge.  The diversity of landforms is astounding.  Within the refuge there is Nebraska Sandhills formations, Rocky Mountain coniferous forestation, tallgrass prairie, and river floodplain biomes.

Besides the elk and bison that make their home here, there is in excess of 230 bird species that have been documented. Due to the diversity of landforms and dry and wet environments present on the refuge, there have been documented 48 mammal species and 24 reptile and amphibian species.

Some hunting is permitted on the process through an application process.  The application can be downloaded here.  Another interesting activity that can be experienced on the refuge is their annual bison roundup. Each year approximately 100 bison are removed from the refuge as part of the management program.

Floating the refuge portion of the Niobrara River is permitted, but a small fee is charged. This float takes you through a portion of the refuge designated as wilderness.

Accomodations can be had in nearby Valentine, Nebraska.

Related articles

National Wildlife Refuges and Home Values

Okay, we have been writing about the wildlife refuges across the Midwest

WASHINGTON:  A new peer-reviewed national study, released today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, shows that in urban areas across three regions of the country owning a home near a national wildlife refuge increases home value and helps support the surrounding community’s tax base.

According to the study, conducted for the Service by economic researchers at North Carolina State University, homes located within half a mile of a refuge and within eight miles of an urban center were found to have higher home values of roughly:

  • Seven to nine percent in the Southeast;
  • Four to five percent in the Northeast; and
  • Three to six percent in the California/Nevada region.

Researchers based their findings on 2000 U.S. Census Bureau micro-level data. The report is the first national study to analyze national wildlife refuges’  impact on land values.

“National wildlife refuges are public treasures that protect imperiled wildlife and delight visitors,” said Service Director Dan Ashe.”These findings remind us that refuges also boost community health, sometimes in unexpected ways,” the director continued. “National wildlife refuges enrich local communities, even in a lean economy, and generate revenue.”

The National Wildlife Refuge System, a network of public lands including 556 refuges and 38 wetland management districts covering more than 150 million acres, is managed by the Service. Besides providing habitat for plants and animals, many refuges offer scenic vistas,wildlife watching, cultural and educational events, and recreation such as fishing and hiking. Last year, 45 million people visited a national wildlife refuge.

Calculated in 2000 dollars, the 14 refuges in the Southeast examined in the study added $122 million to local property values. The 11 refuges
studied in the Northeast added $95 million. The 11 refuges studied in California/Nevada added $83 million.

The researchers surmised that refuges boost property values in the selected regions because refuges protect against future development while
preserving scenic vistas and other “natural amenity benefits associated with open spaces.”

Researchers did not include data from the Midwest, Southwest, Central Mountains and Northwest, where refuges tend to be located further from urban centers than in the Northeast, Southeast and California/Nevada region. Most refuges in the Central Mountains and South Central portions of the country either failed to meet study criteria or were affected by factors that make assessing their impact difficult, such astheir location in a river flood plain or near the border with Mexico.

A 2006 analysis by the Service called Banking on Nature found that more than 34.8 million visits to refuges in fiscal year 2006 generated $1.7 billion in sales, almost 27,000 jobs, and $542.8 million in employment income in regional economies. An updated analysis is expected by 2013.

“Our wildlife refuges are strong economic engines that generate and support jobs in communities across the country,” said Refuge System Chief Jim Kurth. “When President Obama signed an Executive Order earlier this year to promote travel and tourism in the United States he was affirming that investing in our refuges and promoting them to

Logo of the United States Fish and Wildlife Se...

Logo of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

visitors, from here and around the world, can contribute to both an improved National Wildlife Refuge System and economic growth for local communities.”

The lead researcher on the new report, titled “Amenity Values of Proximity to National Wildlife Refuges  was Laura O. Taylor with North Carolina State University. 

Wildlife Refuges of the Midwest – South Dakota

In our first installment of this series on wildlife refuges in the Midwest, I gave my 2 cents worth on why I felt like they were so important and also why I think they are kind of being taken for granted.  Perhaps especially in the Midwest, where at least folks from other regions may not envision areas of wilderness and beauty as being present, I would venture to guess that close to a majority of folks would not be able to tell you whether or not a wildlife refuge exists in their state.  If they did know, I am quite confident they could not name it or state what kind of wildlife was there or have an idea what the habitat was like.

So, here is another effort to do my small part to get the word out that there are some really cool places to go in the Midwest, and there is something to offer for everyone.  If you want to go sit under a tree and listen to the songs of the resident birds you can do that.  If you want to incorporate some hunting and fishing experiences, there are refuges that allow for your passion.  If you are just happy to know these wild places exist in your state, that is okay too.  But let’s make sure they stay that way.

The faces of (left to right) George Washington...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

South Dakota

It seemed natural to look at the refuges in South Dakota after our piece on North Dakota.  South Dakota is a very diverse state when you consider the Badlands, Black Hills, and prairies.  Consequently, there are a varied set of wildlife refuges that populate the state.  While there are not as many refuges as are to be found in North Dakota, they are very much worth a visit, and serve some critical purposes.

Located on the northern edge of the Nebraska Sandhills and in southwestern South Dakota, is Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge.  In 1935 it was established as a refuge for migratory birds and as a breeding ground.  It is 16,410 acres in size.

The terrain is mostly prairie, but also has marshes, meadows, and impounded water sources for wildlife.  In 2001, an effort was begun to reestablish native prairies grasses and other plant species after the typical pattern of having been converted to croplands by settlers.  A wide variety of managemnt techniques are in place to accomplish this.  It is a fact that there are species of birds and

Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge

Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge is located in the northern extremes of the Nebraska Sandhills and home to a wide array of bird, plant, and animal species.

other wildlife that simply cannot thrive, or perhaps even avoid extinction, without native prairie biomes.  Though the efforts are difficult and sometimes expensive, it is a worthwhile task.

There have been 282 bird species recorded in Lacreek.  One notable species is the Trumpeter Swan.  They were introduced to the area in the 1960’s, and at any given time there are between 100 and 300 present in the refuge’s borders. Additionally, there are many prairie species of other types of animals including both mule and whitetail deer.  In the realm of aquatic life, the refuge has a network of springs that support a couple of rare species – the pearl dace and northern redbelly dace.  Also, some of the waters are stocked with typical game fish like walleye, northern pike, catfish, and several others.

There are a variety of hunting and fishing opportunities on the refuge.  Especially with regard to hunting, there are special regulations with which the sportsman must be familiar.

Hiking, wildlife photography, and even taking a designated auto tour of the area are additional activities that are popular. For detailed information on planning a visit, go to the Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge Website.

In Northeast South Dakota you will find one of the jewels of the National Wildlife Refuge system in Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge.  It encompasses

Monarch at Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Monarch at Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge courtesy USFWS

21,498 acres of critical habitat for a variety of bird and mammal species, as well as insects, plant and other living species.  It is home to rare butterfly populations, treasures of migratory birds, and also a refuge for the folks who choose to make their way here.

The stewards of this awesome area have made every effort to balance the needs of preservation of the wild species that inhabit the area with the human visitors that make their way here.  In doing so, they have struck a fine balance between hunters, photographers, bird watchers, anglers, and others.  When any of human activities have come in conflict with the needs of wildlife preservation, as should be the case, the stewardship of wildlife populations get the nod.  Despite this balance being admirably struck, as so often is unfortunately true,  outside influences sometime shave negatively impacted life in the refuge.  One example of this is the presence of asian carp.

English: Landscape at Sand Lake National Wildl...

Landscape at Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These invaders from the southern Mississippi River system escaped holding pens and have gradually spread throughout the tributaries of the river system.  It brings to mind the fact that despite promises that non-native species can be contained when allowed to be brought to the United States, they never are.  It also brings to mind the necessity, despite the short-sighted views of some, of there being a coordinated management of natural resources by the Federal government.  One state’s terrible choice to allow fish farming should not be permitted to have a devastating effect on states a continent away.  I digress.

Sand Lake makes every effort to assist and promote visitors’ experiences on the refuge, all the way to having a backpack lending program.  Their visitor center is a good place to start your visit.  While there you can view the beauty of the refuge from an observational tower. For more information, visit their USFWS Website.

  • Waubay National Wildlife Refuge

The last of the refuges we will cover in South Dakota is the 4,650 acre Waubay National Wildlife Refuge. Located in the prairie pothole region of northeast South Dakota, this refuge is primarily designed for preservation of migratory waterfowl.

The refuge, established in the 1930’s, is centered around Waubay Lake.

Waubay Area Prairie Pothole Lakes

Waubay Area Prairie Pothole Lakes, courtesy USFWS

Waubay Lake fluctuates mightily in water levels, and consequently the types of ducks and other water birds present change with these levels.

According to the USFWS, when the levels are low, the lake supports diving ducks near the sago pondweed beds.  When the water levels are higher, the timber area is flooded making great habitat for wood ducks.  As a rule, blue-winged teal are the most numerous of the bird species in the refuge.  There are a multitude of mammal species present, whitetail deer being the most often seen of the larger variety.

The refuge is a subset of the larger Waubay Wetland Management Unit, and a variety of management techniques are utilized.  As is the case in many wild places in America, natural wildfires have been supplanted with prescribed burns. There a number of plant species that thrive after an area burns, and these prescribed burns are a part of the restorative effort of the refuge and management area.

There are hunting, fishing, and a variety of other recreation opportunities available on the refuge and in the management boundaries.  The best thing to do to get a comprehensive rundown of these activities is the visit the refuge page for visitor information.

Visit back soon for next installment of Wildlife Refuges of the Midwest!

Wildlife Refuges of the Midwest – North Dakota

I have been finishing up a book called The Quiet World: Saving Alaska’s Wilderness Kingdom 1879-1960 by Douglas Brinkley, and then I received a press release from the US Fish and Wildlife Service entitled “National Wildlife Refuges Earn Consistent High Marks with Visitors, Finds National Survey.”  The book ends with the story of the creation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, so that topic was really on my mind.  It got me thinking about to what degree Americans really think about them, and with that, to what extent are they committed to the long term sanctity of these areas?  I am going to address these issues, but I thought I would first highlight the refuges that exist in the Midwest.

We will begin by introducing more than a dozen wildlife refuges in North Dakota.  The terrain of North Dakota is for some an acquired taste.  However, for those who appreciate the value of critical habitats and can find subtle beauty in nature, North Dakota has a lot to offer.  Most of these refuges were established in the 1930’s.

It is my concern that with the expanse of time that has transpired since many of the efforts that were forged to promote creation of such wild places, that people might take them for granted.  Their value to different people can certainly be different, but what they cannot withstand is compromising their purpose – the establishment of critical habitat for their wild inhabitants.  This author’s view is that extraction industries are absolutely contradictory to this purpose.  Pipelines, mining, oil and gas wells, etc. should be considered trespassers on these American treasures.

North Dakota

In east central North Dakota is the

Wetlands at Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge...

Wetlands at Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge, in North Dakota, U.S. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(15,934 acres). The refuge is not far from Jamestown.

The USFWS says that it “was established in 1935 as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife” and “is an important link in a chain of refuges extending from the prairie lands of the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico.”  It is home obviously to waterfowl on their migratory journeys as well as a plethora of songbirds, but also “home to white-tailed deer, badger, skunk, beaver, raccoon, mink, muskrat, ring necked pheasant, and sharp tailed grouse.”

Fishing and hunting are permitted with some restrictions.  Many other activities are permitted and popular, namely birdwatching and photography.  Periodically, there are proposed encroachments on the area, such as the recent proposal of a power transmission line through the area.  When this occurs, an environmental assessment is done followed by a decision on the project.

Located in west central North Dakota is the Audubon National Wildlife

Visitor Center_Audubon NWR

Visitor Center Audubon NWR

Refuge(14,735 acres). The refuge is almost due north of Bismarck.

In 1956, after a dam was built on the Missouri River, it was determined that Lake Sakakawea had displaced much in the way of wildlife, and subsequently Snake Creek NWR was established.  The purpose was to replace some of that habitat that was lost. It is worth noting that the normal surface area of Lake Sakakawea is 368,000 acres, so the wildlife refuge would have only replaced roughly 4% of what was lost.

The USFWS states that “In 1967, Snake Creek NWR was renamed Audubon NWR to honor John James Audubon, one of the great naturalists and wildlife painters of the 19th century. Audubon spent the summer of 1843 near this area collecting bird specimens and painting pictures of northern plains wildlife.”  The purpose of the refuge as stated by the USFWS is to “provide food, water, shelter, and space for a variety of wildlife species. Refuge managers focus their efforts on managing the land to meet the needs of waterfowl and other migratory birds, threatened and endangered species, and resident wildlife.”

The refuge is home to an incredible array of birds and also to many other animal species.  The refuge has also played a part in various restoration efforts, perhaps most notably the success story of the Giant Canada Goose.

Located in central North Dakota is Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge (4835

2010 Pelican Banding at Chase Lake NWR

2010 Pelican Banding at Chase Lake NWR (Photo credit: USFWS Mountain Prairie)

acres).  This refuge is also near Jamestown.

This wildlife refuge “was established as one of the country’s first wildlife refuges in 1908 by executive order of President Theodore Roosevelt.”  Its original purpose was largely to protect the American White Pelican.  In addition to the area’s designation as a wildlife refuge, it also has a wilderness area designation which puts certain restrictions on allowable uses within the refuge.

Located in northwestern North Dakota and on the Canadian border is Des Lacs

Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge

Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge

National Wildlife Refuge (19,544 acres).  The closest town to the area is Kenmare.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the area is the hundreds of thousands of snow geese that populate the refuge each Fall. The refuge was established in 1935 by FDR.  More than 25 bird species have been recorded in the confines of the refuge.  Additionally, a multitude of other animal species are present, even occasionally including moose.

The refuge has a what is called a “Scenic Backway” which allows motorized travel.  There is about 19 miles of excellent wildlife viewing along the route.

  • Florence Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Florence Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Florence Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Located in west central North Dakota, Florence Lake National Wildlife Refuge is one of the smallest (1888 acres).  It is slightly northeast of Bismarck.

This is what the USFWS refers to as a “satellite refuge” and is managed by Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge personnel. The refuge was established in 1939 “…as arefuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife..”  Despite the wishes of staff personnel to open the refuge to some hunting, particularly for whitetail deer to mitigate some surrounding management issues, the area remains closed to hunting at this time.

  • J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge
J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge

J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge

Located along the Souris River in Bottineau and McHenry counties in north-central North Dakota, the 58,693-acre Refuge extends from the Manitoba border southward for approximately 45 miles in an area which was once Glacial Lake Souris. The refuge is near Upham.

The refuge was established in 1935, and according to the USFWS, “waterfowl commonly seen nesting on or near Refuge wetlands include gadwalls, blue-winged teal, mallards, and Canada geese. Other water-dependant birds include American white pelicans, western and eared grebes, white-faced ibis, and black terns. Upland habitat is home to Sprague’s pipits, Baird’s and LeConte’s sparrows, and upland sandpipers, along with sharp-tailed grouse, ring-necked pheasants, gray partridges, ruffed grouse, and wild turkeys.”  Additionally, “many mammals live on the Refuge as well. Beavers, minks, muskrats, raccoons, and weasels make their homes in and near the marshes. The upland and sandhill areas provide shelter for white-tailed deer, moose, coyotes, badgers, red foxes, porcupines, and snowshoe hares.”

Hunting and fishing are permitted in the area under the regulations of North Dakota and in areas designated by the refuge. There are a couple of auto tour routes of the refuge as well as the 13 mile Souris River Canoe Trail.

  • Kellys Slough National Wildlife Refuge

Located in northeastern North Dakota, Kellys Slough National Wildlife Refuge

Kellys Slough National Wildlife Refuge

Kellys Slough National Wildlife Refuge

was established in 1936 “as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife.”  It is managed by Devils Lake Wetland Management District.  It is just north of Grand Forks on the border with Minnesota.

  • Lake Ilo National Wildlife Refuge
Lake Ilo National Wildlife Refuge

Lake Ilo National Wildlife Refuge

Located in western North Dakota in the “Missouri Slope” region is Lake Ilo National Wildlife Refuge (4,034 acres). It is about 1 ½ miles from Dunn Center.

According to the USFWS, this smaller refuge “is home to approximately 226 bird species, 36 mammals, 9 reptiles/amphibians, and 11 different fish species.”  The terrain is a mix of prairie, wetlands, and sloughs.  The refuge was established in 1936 by FDR, around the time the dam creating Lake Ilo was built. In the 1980’s, the dam was in bad shape and had major reconstruction completed making it sound once more.

  • Lake Zahl National Wildlife Refuge

Located in extreme northwest North Dakota is Lake Zahl National Wildlife

Lake Zahl National Wildlife Refuge

Lake Zahl National Wildlife Refuge

Refuge (3,739 acres).  It is nearest to the small town of Zahl, or about 30 miles north of Williston.

This refuge was established in 1939 and is now managed as a satellite refuge under the Crosby Wetland Management District.  Grazing is permitted as part of the management practices of the refuge and various managed hunts are allowed throughout the year.  It is primarily a nesting and stopover area for migrating waterfowl.

  • Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Located in southcentral North Dakota, this 22,300 acre refuge is characterized by a 15 acre “saline basin” known as Long Lake (it is 18 miles long).  The lake is shallow, reaching maximum depths in the wet seasons of seven feet.  The nearest town is Moffit.

Because of the uniqueness of the refuge, the area is home to many types of waterfowl and even to some rare species.  This area was designated as a  “Globally Important Bird Area” in 2001. While hunting is permitted in this refuge, the taking of any type of migratory bird is strictly prohibited. There are also a variety of fishing opportunities for species such as northern pike, yellow perch, and walleye.

  • Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge

Located in northwestern North Dakota, about half way between Minot and Williston, is Los

Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge

Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge

twood National Wildlife Refuge.  The overall acreage is 26,904, with a 5,577 ac

re portion within that was designated in 1975 as a wilderness area.  This area has also been designated a “Globally Important Bird Area” by the American Bird Conservancy.”
This area is a typical pothole prairie region and is home to a variety of bird species including rare ones like Bairds Sparrow.  In addition to the bird species present, the area is home to white-tailed deer, badger, weasel. White-tailed jackrabbit are common.

  • Slade National Wildlife Refuge
Slade National Wildlife Refuge

Slade National Wildlife Refuge

Managed under the authority of Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Slade National Wildlife Refuge is approximately 3,000 acres and is comprised of land once owned and then donated by a railroad executive named G.T. Slade.  It was a sporting club until turned over to the use it now enjoys.

The refuge is accessible to the public only by walking in, and hunting for deer is the only permitted hunting activity.

It is located not far from Dawson.

Located in northcentral North Dakota, about 30 miles northwest of Minot, is Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge (32,092 acres).  It was established in 1935, as were most of the North Dakota wildlife refuges, as a habitat primarily for migratory birds.

Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge

Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge

9600 acre Lake Darling is the main feature of the refuge, but is characterized by beautiful rolling hills in the Souris River valley.  The American Bird Conservancy has designated the Refuge as a Globally Important Bird Area. Lake Darling is also designated as critical habitat for the endangered piping plover.

According to the USFWS, “Hunting programs are designed to harvest the yearly increase in wildlife numbers to prevent overpopulation.”

Check back for our next state in Wildlife Refuges of the Midwest

Fishing Trivia and Opportunities

Fisherman in a canoe at sunset

Fisherman in a canoe at sunset (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fishing really is an awesome outdoor activity.  It is perhaps one of the major conduits through which people get introduced to the outdoors.  Some of the greatest outdoor writing uses fishing as the backdrop, usually as an illustration of some greater idea.  Fishermen have a natural incentive to guard the environment from pollution, invasive species, as well as destruction from industries such as timber and the extraction industries like coal and oil.  The numbers really are staggering when you look at the economic impact of fishing.

It seems like most states periodically publish statistics about how fishing impacts their economies.  In reading the most recent one I came across from Minnesota, some interesting trivia tidbits jumped out.  With a population of about 5.3 million in 2012 and an estimated 2 million people who fish in the state, this represents approximately 37% of the state’s residents.  It would be hard to come up with another leisure time activity with a higher participation rate.  One aspect of these statistics that perhaps is not so great is that the vast majority of these numbers come from the 35-64 year old age group and 71% of all fishermen are in fact men. For the sake of the long term prospects of protecting fishing rights like stream access and guarding the environment, it would be nice to see more young people fishing and also for women to be better represented in these numbers.  Most states offer a variety of activities and programs to accomplish this, and that is certainly also in their economic interests.

Minnesota for example, had in excess of $340 million in tax revenue from fishing.  In addition to that, approximately $350 million went into the federal tax coffers.  Most fishermen do not mind paying for licenses and sales tax if they know that it will in large part go to enhancing their fisheries and the environment.

One of the programs that is designed to increase the number of young fishermen is the “Take a Kid Fishing” program.  If you simply do a web search by typing in “take a kid fishing your state”, you will locate events in your state or area.  Most require volunteers to help out.  Outdoors folks tend to be very willing to share their experiences and knowledge with the idea that they really are doing a great good in the process.

One example of such an upcoming event is occurring in the Akron, Ohio area on May 26th through Labor Day.  Bait and tackle are provided for the participants and kids just need to have an adult with them (sorry adults – you just get to watch and assist but not actually fish). For this specific event, visit the Take a Kid Fishing Site from Ohio‘s Department of Wildlife.

Another example of such efforts are the efforts to get more women involved in the outdoors.  In North Dakota, as well as many other Midwestern states, there are specific programs designed to do just this.  An entire series of activities has been set up for example in North Dakota which will offer instruction and activities such as fly fishing, hiking, basics of firearms, use of GPS units, kayaking, photography, and more.  For more on this specific opportunity visit North Dakota Womens’ Outdoor Workshops.

No matter where you live in the Midwest, and whether it’s fishing or some other outdoor pursuit you like, we encourage you to get out and enjoy the natural settings around you.  Even better, share it with someone who might not other wise have the opportunity to do so.  The rewards will be great for you, them, and the environment.

Wanna Go Pro as a Fisherman…Kinda?

The statute outside Cabela's in Wheeling, WV 4...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This might not be exactly what you had in mind if you ever considered going on the bass or walleye pro tour. However, the primary definition of a professional is someone who earns money in some endeavor – right?  Well, if that is your definition, you could be a professional fisherman if you fish the waters in several Midwestern states – oh yeah, and you are pretty lucky.

Cabela’s sponsors a Wanna Go Fishing for Millions contest in quite a few states including South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois, and Wisconsin. It’s a great idea to inspire interest in fishing amongst those who might need a bit of inspiration.  It also provides a lot of fun for those who just like fishing.

The fish from across a wide variety of species are tagged and released.  If you are registered at Cabela’s you win money when you catch a tagged fish.

Check it out on Cabela’s Registration Page

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