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Erie National Wildlife Refuge

small state map showing location

Guys Mills, Pennsylvania


Erie Refuge consists of two separate land divisions. Sugar Lake Division, the more intensely managed portion, lies 10 miles east of Meadville on the outskirts of Guys Mills village. It contains 5,206 acres lying in a narrow valley which includes Woodcock Creek draining to the north and Lake Creek draining to the south. Beaver ponds, pools, and marshland along the creeks are bounded by forested slopes interspersed with croplands, grasslands, and wet meadows.

The Seneca Division is about 10 miles north of Sugar Lake Division or four miles southeast of Cambridge Springs. It consists of 3,571 acreas situated in a forested valley where Muddy Creek and Dead Creek provide most of the wetland habitat.


Erie Refuge was established in 1959. The land was purchased with funds provided from the sale of the Migratory Bid Hunting and Conservation Stamps (also known as Duck Stamps). A management objective is to provide waterfowl and other migratory birds with nesting, feeding, brooding, and resting habitat. Other objectives are to provide habitat to support a diversity of other wildlife species and to enhance opportunities for wildlife-oriented public recreation and environmental education. Over 2,500 acres of wetlands, including beaver floodings, marshes, swamps, manmade impoundments, creeks and wet meadows, provide desirable waterfowl habitat. Water control structures on refuge impoundments permit the manipulation of water levels to encourage the growth of waterfowl food and cover plants such as smartweeds and bulrushes.

Grasslands are being developed near wetlands to provide dense nesting cover for ground-nesting waterfowl and other birds. Improved nesting cover provides more natural protection from predators and can be just as important to waterfowl production as quality marsh habitat.

A cooperative farming program permits farmers to cultivate crops on refuge lands. Farmers agree to raise certain crops such as oats, grass, clover and corn. In return for using the land, farmers leave the refuge a share of the crops. These refuge shares are usually left in the field as supplemental food for wildlife.

Photo: Violets


Waterfowl migrations occur from March to early April and again from September to November. The peak migrating waterfowl population on any given day has been 2,500 ducks and 4,500 Canada geese. Bird enthusiasts may readily see Canada geese, wood ducks, mallards, blue-winged teal, and hooded mergansers. Some less numerous migrants are pintail, green-winged teal, American wigeon, scaup, bufflehead, golden-eye, ring-necked ducks, and black ducks.

Wood ducks are the most prolific waterfowl nesters on the refuge. Their annual production is significantly increased by the placement of nesting boxes on refuge wetlands. Hooded mergansers, mallards, blue-winged teal and Canada geese are other common resident nesting waterfowl.

Photo: Great blue heron
Photo: Hooded Merganser

Bald eagles nest on the refuge and osprey visit in search of food. Red-tailed hawks and American kestrels are common raptors that nest here.

During the summer shorebirds such as sandpipers and yellowlegsappear in small flocks, feeding on the mudflats. The most noticeable marshbirds are great blue herons, which nest in rookeries on the refuge.

The diverse habitat types found on Erie Refuge attract 237 species of birds. The refuge provides nesting habitat for 113 bird species. A detailed refuge bird brochure may be obtained from the refuge office.

Some 47 species of mammals are present on the refuge. The most commonly seen are white-tailed deer, beaver, muskrat and woodchucks.

Common warm water fish occurring in refuge waters include black crappie, yellow perch, largemouth bass, bluegills, sunfish and bullheads. Common cold water species include trout and white suckers, found in Woodcock Creek.

The refuge is home to 37 species of amphibians and reptiles.

Vistor Opportunities

Visitor Center
Visitors can view displays, obtain information brochures and talk with personnel at the refuge headquarters/visitor center building Monday through Friday, 8:00 am. til 4:30pm. headquarters is located off Route 198, ¾ mile east of Guys Mills and 10 miles east of Meadville.

Outdoor Facilities
Facilities are open daily, ½ hour before sunrise to sunset, unless otherwise posted.

Beaver Run Trail
Two half-mile long paths (a loop and a spur) wind through natural surroundings where visitors can observe a variety of plant and animal life. Trail is located on Hanks Road.

Photo: People walking along the Tsuga Nature Trail

Tsuga Nature Trail
This two-mile loop trail follows a 1.2 or 1.6 mile route through a variety of habitats. A boardwalk traverses a beaver pond. During winter, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are permitted. Trail is located near headquarters/visitor center.

Deer Run Trail
Animal tracks in the snow or chips beneath a tree where a woodpecker is working can be seen along this three-mile trail which is open during winter for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Trail is located on Boland Road.

Muddy Creek Holly Trail
Winterberry holly, also called black alder, with bright red berries can be seen along the one-mile trail. Trail is located on Johnstown Road, Seneca Division.

Observation Blind
An ideal spot to observe and photograph wildlife. A short path leads to the blind which overlooks Reitz's Pond. Blind is located on Boland/Ritchie Road.

Deer Run Overlook
Eagles can often be observed flying overhead from this hight point above this high point above the 130-acre Pool 9. Overlook is located on Allen Road.

Wooded Drive
This section of gravel township road is especially scenic and a good spot to observe white-tailed deer and other wildlife.

Hunting and Fishing
Specific regulations and maps are available at headquarters/visitor center. A universally accessible fishing pier is located at pool K.

Photo: Eastern bluebird
Environmental Education
Organized school, civic and professional groups may reserve dates for slide talks, movies, management tours, and outdoor classrooms. Teacher workshops are offered. Write or call for more information.
This resource is based on the following source:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. December 1997. Erie National Wildlife 
     Refuge.  Cape May County Board of Chosen Freeholders.  Unpaginated.
This resource should be cited as:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. December 1997. Erie National Wildlife 
     Refuge.  Cape May County Board of Chosen Freeholders.  Unpaginated.  
     Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online.
     (Version 30DEC2002).

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