Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Mound City, Missouri
For thousands of years, time in the Missouri River Basin has been measured by the migration of waterfowl. Each spring and fall, northwestern Missouri was inundated by a noisy confusion of ducks and geese. From northern Canada and the prairie pothole country, they flocked into the marshes and backwaters of wild Missouri.
However, far reaching changes have transformed the valley in the past 150 years. Marshland drainage and deepening and straightening of the channel largely eliminated oxbow lakes and marshes and the natural, sandbar-studded Missouri River channel. To partially meet the needs of wildlife in a changed, less hospitable environment, Squaw Creek Refuge was established in 1935. Here, amidst 7,178 acres of man-made marshes, waterfowl and other wildlife can still find critically needed food, water and shelter.
Overlooking the refuge from the east are the loess bluffs, a geologic formation of wind-deposited soil from the past glacial period. On top of the bluffs are some of the last remnants of the once vast native prairie. Hundreds of thousands of migratory birds provide a stirring spectacle against the backdrop of the bluffs just as they did for Lewis and Clark and the Indians before them.
The primary objective of the refuge is to provide habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. A variety of management practices are used to meet the needs of wildlife. Marsh and water management provide feeding and resting areas for migratory birds. Farming, haying and mowing, as well as controlled burning, provide habitat diversity needed by a variety of wildlife.
Fur and Feathers
The refuge is rich in its variety of wildlife. It is home for 31 kinds of mammals, 35 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 301 species of birds. Migratory birds stop to rest and feed at Squaw Creek Refuge during their long spring and fall migrations. In September, pelicans are among the first heralds of fall. Great blue herons wade in shallow ponds, fishing for their dinner. Sandpipers, running along the water's edge leaving fragile patterns in the mud, are startled into flight by a swiftly passing shadow.
Other early migrants, pintail, gadwalls, and teal are soon joined by mallards, snow geese and Canada geese. At peak migration times, 300,000 snow geese and as many as 100,000 ducks feed and rest in the marshes.
Bald eagles, the American national symbol, migrate into the refuge in the late fall and early winter to feed on sick and injured waterfowl. As many as 300 may be found here during peak season. A few may spend the winter. Mice and voles are safely hidden from hawks and owls by fields of prairie grass. Beaver and muskrat find food and cover in the marsh. Coyotes hunt in the uplands. Whitetail deer seek shelter in willow thickets and groves of cottonwood trees.
Invitation to Squaw Creek
At Squaw Creek Refuge there is an excellent opportunity to enjoy wildlife in its natural setting. Refuge roads and foot trails provide access to many wildlife observation areas. Viewing towers and wayside exhibits are excellent vantage points for observing and photographing wildlife. From a high point on the Loess Bluff Trail, hikers can view the Missouri River floodplain and much of the refuge. Parts of Kansas and Nebraska can also be seen on a clear day.
Squaw Creek Refuge is open daily from sunrise to sunset, although some roads may be closed during wet weather. In addition to the spectacular viewing of waterfowl, eagles and deer, seasonal activities such as fishing and photography can also be enjoyed.
No camping is permitted on the refuge; however, camping facilities are available at Big Lake State Park, 8 miles (13 kilometers) west of the refuge, Restroom facilities are available at the Refuge Headquarters. Office hours are Monday through Friday from 7:30 AM to 4:00 PM.
Refuge Manager Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge PO Box 101 Mound City, Missouri 64470 Telephone: 660/442-3187