SALT LAKE CITY — Sunday marked the beginning of National Wildlife Refuge Week, an annual week meant to draw people to reconnect with nature in the hundreds of wildlife refuges across the country.
The National Wildlife Refuge System began in 1903, and there are currently 567 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts across the U.S., according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees the country’s wildlife refuges.
Since the beginning, refuges in the system have become popular places for anglers, hunters, hikers and wildlife watchers alike. In fact, the fish and wildlife service states the system draws in millions of people each year, drives $3.2 billion into regional economies each year, and supports more than 41,000 U.S. jobs.
While every refuge is a beacon for recreation, fish and wildlife officials point out they can also help foster education, reduce fire risks, help lead to cleaner air and water, and even act as buffers for flooding risks in some places.
In honor of this week, here are 11 wildlife refuges in Utah and neighboring states that you can enjoy:
Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Location: Montpelier, Idaho (exact directions can be found here)
About: Founded in 1968, this refuge is home to about 18,000 acres of cattail marsh that draws in a wide variety of waterfowl. For more information about the refuge, click here.
Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge
Location: 2155 W. Forest Street, Brigham City
About: This refuge was created in 1928 amid a loss of marshes and a large-scale bird die-off from botulism during the 1920s, according to the fish and wildlife service. The variety of birds that visit the refuge offer visitors a grand ability to birdwatch and take nature photography. It’s also a place open for hunting and fishing. More information about the refuge can be found here.
Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge
Location: 1318 Colorado State Highway 318, Maybell, Colorado
About: This refuge, which is in northwestern Colorado near the Utah-Colorado border, is 12,150 acres in size. It was established in 1965 and provides a habitat for moose, elk, mule deer, pronghorn and migratory birds. More information about the refuge can be found here.
Cokeville Meadows National Wildlife Refuge
Location: U.S. Route 30, about 1 mile south of Cokeville, Wyoming
About: This refuge, which was founded in 1992, boasts nearly 10,000 acres of land protected for migratory birds such as white-faced ibis, black tern and many other birds that call the Bear River in western Wyoming home. It’s also home to the largest breeding population of American bittern in Wyoming, and where many mule deer, elk and pronghorn live. More information about the refuge can be found here.
Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge
Location: 8454 Auto Tour Route, Dugway
About: This refuge was established in 1959 for migratory bird management in the Pacific Flyway. It’s nearly 18,000 acres in size — more than half of that is wetlands — and is home to about 290 different bird species. According to the fish and wildlife service, fall provides “peak numbers of shorebirds, waterfowl and many land birds.”
Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Location: Grays Lake Road, Wayan, Idaho (27 miles north of Soda Springs)
About: There are more than 200 pairs of sandhill crane that nest at this refuge, which is the most in North America. Established in 1965, Grays Lake is home to about 250 species of birds altogether, according to the fish and wildlife service. Moose, elk and mule deer have also been spotted there. The refuge provides ample wildlife photography opportunities and waterfowl hunting. More information about the refuge can be found here.
Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge
Location: 2847 E. 450 North, American Falls, Idaho
About: This refuge is located in the vicinity of Lake Walcott State Park — a lake that’s formed from the Snake River, which runs through the area. Roughly half of its close to 20,700 acres is open water and wetlands, and there is plenty of smallmouth bass, sturgeon, carp, rainbow trout and yellow perch found at the refuge. It's also home to various birds, mammals and amphibians/reptiles, according to the fish and wildlife service. More information about the refuge can be found here.
National Elk Refuge
Location: 675 E. Broadway Ave., Jackson, Wyoming
About: Located south of Grand Teton National Park, the fish and wildlife service says this refuge was established to preserve, restore and manage a winter habitat for the Jackson Elk Herd, as well as serve as a habitat for birds, fish and other mammals.
Ouray National Wildlife Refuge
Location: Off of State Route 88 (about 32 miles southwest of Vernal)
About: This refuge was created in 1960 on the banks of the Green River in eastern Utah as a sanctuary for migratory birds. It provides visitors wildlife viewing of bald eagles, owls, hawks, waterfowl, songbirds and even porcupines, according to the fish and wildlife service. Visitors with proper permits can also hunt ducks, geese, coots, pheasants, deer, elk and turkeys. Fishing in the area is also allowed. More information about the refuge can be found here.
Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge
Location: Milepost 32 on U.S. Highway 93 south of Alamo, Nevada
About: This refuge in Nevada covers an area sacred to the Nuwuvi Native Americans in the state, and there are petroglyph sites within it. As for nature, there are plenty of critters who call the more than 5,000 acres of land home. People can spot ducks, heron and egrets in the marsh area. It’s also home to desert tortoise, according to the fish and wildlife service. More information about the refuge can be found here.
Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge
Location: Off of La Barge Road (about 32 miles northwest of Green River, Wyoming)
About: This refuge’s name originates the Shoshone meaning of “river of the prairie hen." Established in 1965, it encompasses more than 27,000 acres of land filled with all sorts of wildlife and has a rich history. Both the Oregon and Mormon Pioneer historic trails cross through the refuge, and famous fur trapper Jim Bridger operated a ferry down the river during the mid-1800s, according to the fish and wildlife service. Visitors can find all sorts of birds, moose, pronghorn, deer and elk on land, as well as otters and fish in the river area. More information about the refuge can be found here.