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Mingo National Wildlife Refuge

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Puxico, Missouri

Mingo National Wildlife Refuge is an important link in a chain of wildlife refuges within the Mississippi Flyway. Located in southeast Missouri, it lies 35 miles north of Arkansas and 40 miles west of the Mississippi River. Here, amidst hardwood swamplands bordered by picturesque hills, waterfowl find excellent habitat during the winter months complete with open water, protection, ample food, and cover.


The refuge is open for hiking, canoeing, fishing, and nature study during daylight hours from March 15 through September 30. Limited picnic facilities are also available. During the remainder of the year, visitors should stop at refuge headquarters before venturing into the interior of the refuge.

If possible, a visit to the refuge should begin with a tour of the new visitor center overlooking Rockhouse Marsh. Here, visitors can gain a basic understanding of Mingo area history, geology, and wildlife by viewing attractive exhibits.

Canoeing on Mingo River, Stanley Creek, or on the many miles of ditches within the refuge is probably the best way to experience the beauty and ecological diversity of the interior of Mingo Swamp.

Hiking trails on the refuge also allow the visitor to closely observe Mingo swamps and uplands. On the BOARDWALK NATURE TRAIL, you can enjoy the beauty of Mingo without getting your feet wet. The OBSERVATION BLIND TRAIL is another boardwalk that ends at an observation blind where waterfowl can frequently be seen and photographed. Booklets are provided describing points of interest along the way for both trails. The BLUFF TRAIL, which begins at the Visitor Center, provides a fascinating walk when wildflowers are blooming in the spring. It also furnishes an interesting view of the steep limestone bluffs bordering the swamp.

Environmental education is an important program at Mingo and school groups from all over southeast Missouri visit the refuge each year. Refuge workers are glad to provide orientation and lesson plans to help make visits to the refuge valuable learning experiences.

Fishing for bass, crappie, bluegill, and catfish is a popular activity on the refuge. Special regulations also permit the taking of nongame fish such as carp and buffalo with nets and seines for personal use. Boats without motors are permitted.

Limited hunting is permitted. Interested hunters should contact the Refuge Manager for current regulations.


At one time, the Mississippi River flowed through the area where the refuge is now located. About 18,000 years ago, the river shifted east and a dense swamp began to form in the abandoned channel. From the very beginning, Mingo Swamp was a haven for wildlife of many kinds. Numerous Indian artifacts discovered on the refuge furnish evidence of past use by Indian people probably attracted to the area by its abundant wildlife.

The first settlers in tne area quickly began to exploit the swamp. By 1890, the vast cypress and tupelo forest supported a thriving lumber industry. After the timber was removed, large ditches were dug through the swamp to drain the area for farming. Over a million dollars was spent in an effort that was only partially successful. This was in contrast to many other drainage projects that have successfully drained hundreds of thousands of acres of hardwood swamplands in southeastern Missouri. By the time of the Great Depression, the depressed state of the economy, expensive and only moderately successful drainage attempts, poor farming practices, and numerous fires caused economic and ecological bankruptcy in Mingo.

In the late 1930's, interest began to develop in purchasing the Mingo areas as a National Wildlife Refuge. Even though the area had many scars from improper land use and most of the wildlife was gone, its former capacity as a producer of wildlife and timber was still remembered.

In 1945, the purchase of refuge lands began and through careful management, most of the productivity of the swamp was restored. The 21,676 acre refuge is now able to accomplish its primary objective - providing food and shelter for migratory waterfowl.


Management at Mingo emphasizes the natural productivity of the swamp. Acorns from oak trees provide an important source of food for dabbling ducks as well as for turkey, deer, and squirrel. Open marsh areas produce seed bearing moist soil plants such as wild millet as well as large numbers of invertebrates, both of which are important to waterfowl and other waterbirds. Water levels are manipulated through use of water control structures, ditches and dikes, helping produce an annual crop of natural food.

Food for wildlife is also produced by farming about 600 acres. Most of this land is tilled by neighboring farmers on a sharecrop basis. The refuge's share of the crop is left standing in the field for wildlife.

Waterfowl management also concentrates on the construction and placement of man-made nesting habitat for wood ducks. Many predator-proof nest boxes have been installed. These wood duck boxes, combined with food and cover on the refuge, have resulted in a dramatic increase in numbers of this strikingly beautiful bird. A few hooded mergansers also nest in these boxes each year.

For additional infommation contact:
                 Refuge Manager
                 Mingo National Wildlife Refuge
                 24279 State Highway 51
                 Puxico, Missouri 63960

MINGO National Wildlife Refuge is one of a system of refuges administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and dedicated to the preservation of wildlife. The financial base for this system was firmly established in 1934 through the passage of the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act. This Act requires waterfowl hunters to purchase annually a migratory bird or "duck stamp." Funds collected from duck stamp sales have been used to purchase numerous refuges that provide habitats necessary to sustain a variety of wildlife for both hunters and nonhunters to enjoy.

Equal opportunity to participate in, and benefit from, programs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is available to all individuals regardless of age, race, color, national origin, religion, sex, or disability. Persons who believe they have been discriminated against in any program, activity, or facility operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior.

Return to Bird Checklist of Mingo National Wildlife Refuge

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