Do you enjoy seeing wildlife? Even a little bit? Well, get to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. In fact, now is a good time as the fall bird migrations are under way! The Necedah National Wildlife Refuge is only about an hour north of Devil’s Lake State Park and surprisingly receives only just over 100,000 visitors per year. Really, that’s sad considering the over 43,000 acre refuge is home to a variety of animals and insects rarely seen elsewhere in the state including; whooping cranes, trumpeter swans, wolves, Karner blue butterflies, badgers, Blandings turtles and red-headed woodpeckers. What’s more, it’s FREE! Yep. The hiking trails, roads, observation areas, parking.. all free.
I hear the doubters.. “It’s a long way up there.. (an hour) and then we’ll get there and it’s so huge we’ll never see anything..” I don’t know. An hour seems like a typical commute in Chicago or Milwaukee and the payoff is much better when you get to Necedah! And seeing anything? Don’t worry. We’ve taken two trips this year so far, one in April and one in September. On both visits we easily located trumpeter swans & red-headed woodpeckers from our car. Amazingly last weekend we were able to watch a pair of Whooping Cranes feeding in a marsh, again, we never had to leave the road! Visitors who stop by the refuge’s new building can pick up a self-guided auto tour route through the refuge that highlights the best wildlife viewing areas within Necedah. If you are visiting for the first time, we certainly recommend doing the driving tour. Right now is a good time to take in some fall colors at Necedah as well.
If you go:
- The visitor center is closed on Sunday, so if that’s your day, you’re on your own. Take advantage of the information you can print out from the website before you go.
- Easy, short, trails are located right behind the visitor center and offer great views of the wetlands.
- Interior roads are mostly gravel. Poor weather & spring thaw can make for some tricky driving within the refuge.
- Smart Phones, GPS, etc., generally works well within the refuge.
- Plan to spend much of your day exploring. Pack water & lunch. You’re a bit off the beaten path…
- Gas is available in community of Necedah.
Whooping Crane Video:
- Necedah Wildlife Refuge Homepage
- Bird Checklist
- Friends of Necedah
- Operation Migration – Reintroduction of Whooping Cranes