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Spotlight: National Wildlife Refuge System Celebrates 110 Years of Conservation Success

Spotlight: National Wildlife Refuge System Celebrates 110 Years of Conservation Success

Recharge your body and soul by visiting a refuge. It's your nature!

spoon bills Roseate spoonbills, J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Florida.(Harold Wagle/NWRA Photo Contest)

What You’ll Find

One of America’s greatest conservation success stories!  On March 14, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt created America’s first national wildlife refuge at Florida’s Pelican Island, a place of respite from bounty hunters for the area’s wild birds. Now with more than 150 million acres, the National Wildlife Refuge System is the nation’s premier wildlife conservation network. Refuges are home to more than 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 250 reptile and amphibian species, and 200 fish species.

Getting There

Every state has at least one national wildlife refuge, and there’s a refuge within an hour’s drive of most major cities. Find a refuge near you with a quick zip code or state search

Make Sure You

Check with your nearest national wildlife refuge for special birthday events like these: 

•    Find two reasons to celebrate at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge near Manteo, North Carolina–the refuge’s 29th birthday as well as the Refuge System birthday. Take a free tram tour, learn what the area was like before the refuge was established, and look for black bear, bald eagles and other wildlife.

•    Visit Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge near Cambridge, Maryland, for the Annual Eagle Festival and enjoy free entrance to the refuge as well as live birds of prey demonstrations, Wildlife Drive tours, marsh hikes, and wildlife exhibits. A day designed with kids in mind, young visitors can try the archery range, build a bird box and take in a puppet show! 

•    Enjoy the free Birthday Bash festival at Patuxent Research Refuge near Laurel, Maryland, and experience live animals, refuge tram tours, children’s crafts, music and entertainment.

•    Attend the 20th annual Pelican Island Wildlife Festival in Sebastian, Florida, honoring Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Refuge System. Enjoy exhibits, wildlife shows, a photo contest, pontoon boat tours to Pelican Island, kayaking, live music and kids’ activities.

For more events, visit the National Wildlife Refuge System Birthday 2013 Event page or the Fish and Wildlife Service Special Event Calendar.

Try This

Photography at its best! The almost unimaginable scenic beauty of wildlife refuges is matched only by the breathtaking abundance of plants and animals that thrive there. From observation decks, canoes, and auto and nature trails, millions of visitors each year are awed by the wonder of these still-wild places, and many preserve their memories on film. For a complete list of wildlife refuges that welcome wildlife watchers and photographers, visit the National Wildlife Refuge System homepage or call 1-800-344-WILD.

Don’t Forget

True to their name, wildlife refuges make wildlife the top priority. Refuges helped save our national symbol, the American bald eagle, from extinction, and continue to protect hundreds of other wild species—including fish, migratory birds, and many other plants and animals and the habitats that support them.

Get Started!

Join one of many innovative and engaging visitor programs across the country to discover how refuges conserve some of our nation’s most cherished natural treasures. Enjoy guided hikes and nature tours, see birds of prey or great flocks of migratory birds or hear spring peepers’ joyful chorus. For a variety of unique and exciting activities available on refuges, check these information guides:

•    The fishing guide to find the best fishing on refuges.
•    The interactive hunting guide to find the best refuge hunting opportunities.
•    The trails guide to find hiking and walking trails on refuges.
•    The Birding in the Refuge System guide.
•    The “Fun on Refuges” guide for lots of fun activities.