The top wildlife refuge in the nation is right here in Iowa

The top wildlife refuge in the nation is right here in Iowa

Photo by Mike Cox courtesy of Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge via Facebook.

By Good Info News Wire

July 6, 2024

In the heart of the Midwest lies a hidden gem that has just been crowned the top wildlife refuge in the entire nation.

Yep—according to USA Today’s 10Best list, Iowa is home to the No. 1 wildlife refuge destination for nature enthusiasts.

Here’s what makes it so amazing:

Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge

Located in Prairie City, just east of Des Moines in Jasper County, the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge serves as a beacon for wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists alike.

As one of the largest national wildlife refuges in the Midwest, Neal Smith offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the splendor of Iowa’s native ecosystems.

Established in 1990, the refuge holds a steadfast mission: to actively protect, restore, reconstruct, and manage the diverse native ecosystems of tallgrass prairie, oak savanna, and sedge meadow.

Once blanketing 85% of Iowa prior to European-American settlement, tallgrass prairie has dwindled to less than 0.1% of the state’s landscape, fragmented into small, isolated patches. In response, refuge staff and volunteers have embarked on an ambitious endeavor to revive native prairie plant communities, utilizing local seed sources to sow approximately 4,000 acres of tallgrass prairie.

Today, the refuge encompasses 6,000 acres, serving as vital food, cover, and breeding habitat for both resident and migratory wildlife species. Beyond its conservation efforts, Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge stands as a beacon of environmental education, volunteerism, and outdoor recreation, welcoming individuals of all ages and backgrounds to learn about and enjoy the great outdoors.

The No. 1 Wildlife Refuge In The Nation Is Right Here In Iowa

Photo by Joan Van Gorp, courtesy of Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge via Facebook.

Hiking, driving trails

Visitors to Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge are greeted by a plethora of amenities designed to enhance their experience.

From well-maintained hiking trails and a five-mile Prairie Wildlife Drive auto tour loop that winds through the prairie to educational visitor centers brimming with fascinating exhibits and films, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

The refuge also boasts a diverse range of habitats, including tallgrass prairie, oak savanna, and wetlands, providing a haven for countless species of flora and fauna.

The No. 1 Wildlife Refuge In The Nation Is Right Here In Iowa

Photo by Joan Van Gorp courtesy of Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge via Facebook.

What the reviews say

Reviews of Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge praise its serene beauty and abundance of wildlife sightings.

Visitors marvel at the opportunity to observe bison roaming freely across the vast prairie landscape, while others are captivated by the vibrant array of wildflowers that bloom throughout the seasons.

Many reviewers commend the refuge’s dedication to conservation and education, noting the informative guided tours and interpretive programs offered to visitors of all ages.

The No. 1 Wildlife Refuge In The Nation Is Right Here In Iowa

Photo courtesy of Nancy Corona via USFWS.

Preservation at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge

In addition to its recreational and educational offerings, Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge plays a vital role in preserving Iowa’s natural heritage.

Through habitat restoration efforts and wildlife management initiatives, the refuge strives to maintain healthy ecosystems for future generations to enjoy.

Organizations like the Tallgrass Prairie Center collaborate with the refuge to promote prairie conservation and restoration, further enhancing its impact on the surrounding landscape.

Plan your visit

Whether you’re a seasoned nature enthusiast or simply seeking a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge offers an unparalleled opportunity to reconnect with the beauty of the natural world. As you explore its sprawling prairies and observe its resident wildlife, you’ll gain a newfound appreciation for the remarkable biodiversity that thrives within the heart of Iowa.

Located at 981 Pacific St. in Prairie City, the visitor center is open Thursday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the auto tour loop and walking trails are open every day from sunrise to sunset.

This article first appeared on Good Info News Wire and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.The top wildlife refuge in the nation is right here in IowaThe top wildlife refuge in the nation is right here in Iowa

This story was generated in part by AI and edited by Iowa Starting Line staff.

CATEGORIES: NATURE

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