Happy Wednesday fellow Travel Freaks! Hope you all enjoy the bright and beautiful Harvest Moon that usher’s in the fall season. This week, we’re taking a walk on the wild side, and checking out a festive fall season of events and natural beauty to explore at our National Wildlife Refuges.

Butterflies and birds are preparing for their annual migration, which makes it the perfect time to explore our National Wildlife Refuges. We start at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Prairie City, Iowa, where children ages 3-5 can join the Nature Tots Worm Hunt this weekend. During the event they’ll learn about the amazing migration of butterflies that live on the prairie through activities, nature crafts, hikes.

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Next weekend, the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge will host a Fall Photo Hike in the morning to view the Monarch Butterfly on New England Aster. You’ll also see many species of birds on the walk, which may include the hungry and entertaining pelicans. This is a wonderful opportunity to photograph the beautiful fall prairie on a ranger-led walk, and learn about the common fall flowers and wildlife at the Wildlife Refuge, plus a few handy tips to help you capture the best photo’s in the wild.

Minnesota – Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge

Designated as a Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society, the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuges upland habitats are dynamic, ranging from grasslands to oak savanna to forest. And, a variety of wetland and river habitats that range from sedge meadow to deep water marsh are spread throughout the Wildlife Refuge that is located just 15 minutes from the communities of Zimmerman and Princeton, and only an hour from the Minneapolis and St. Paul metro area.

While fall is known for leaping peeping, the season also offers colorful wildflowers, and the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge will host a Fall Wildflower Tour this weekend. Robin DeLong, a volunteer naturalist and wildflower enthusiast, will guide the tour, and explore wildflowers and native grasses whose colors and textures decorate the fall landscape.

Colorado – Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

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The 15,000-acre Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is considered one of the finest conservation success stories in history. Once grazing and farm land, the Wildlife Refuge was transformed into a chemical weapons manufacturing facility called the Rocky Mountain Arsenal by the U.S. Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Later, the Arsenal was later used for Cold-War weapons production and demilitarization.

The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, located northeast of Denver is a thriving wildlife refuge. And, on September 19 they are hosting a Fall Hike ‘n’ Bird Walk when birders can explore the woodland, wetland and prairie habitats. Bring along your camera and take your best shot at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge for the 2014 Amateur Photo Contest.

Only photographs taken at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge will be accepted. Once you’ve selected your favorite photo you can submit it as a 5 x 7 photograph with an approximately 2-inch wide white mat. You can drop off your entry to the Visitor Center Information Desk Wednesdays through Sundays from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm or mail your entry to Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge – Photo Contest Entry, 6550 Gateway Road, Building 121, Commerce City, CO 80022. Winners of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge 2014 Amateur Photo Contest will be announced and contacted in early December. The top 3 winning entries will be reproduced into postcards and will be available for sale at Nature’s Nest Books and Gifts managed by the Friends of the Front Range Wildlife Refuges.

New Jersey – Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Only 26 miles west of Times Square, the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Basking Ridge, New Jersey is an ideal escape from the hustle and bustle of city. Stop at the “Overlook” on your drive through Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge to photograph flocks of waterfowl flying in the distance, and if you’re lucky, you may catch sight of the occasional bald eagle.

Spend time walking along the miles boardwalks to explore the variety of habitats and many different species wildlife. Sneak a peek through the three permanent bird blinds and view the habits of numerous bird species like northern harriers, woodcocks, red-tailed hawks and bluebirds. Keep an eye out for the white-tailed deer, red fox, turtles, and muskrat that also thrive in the Wildlife Refuge. There is also 8 miles of designated hiking trails in the refuge’s wilderness area to explore. Those who prefer to travel off the beaten path can slip on their hip boots and explore 3,660 acres of trail.

Nevada – Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge

The Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge is spread across 116 acres, and about 60 miles north of Las Vegas, Nevada. The Wildlife Refuge was established in September of 1979 to secure habitat for a small endangered fish called the Moapa dace that is commonly found throughout the headwaters of the Muddy River system. Because of its small size, fragile habitats, and on-going restoration work, the Wildlife Refuge is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, sunrise to sunset, from Labor Day through Memorial Day.

Next weekend, the Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge host a Scorpion Hunt and Night Hike that will reveal how these animals adapt in order to thrive in the darkness. With the helpful guidance of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service guides you’ll join other adventurer’s on a search for scorpions with the ultraviolet flashlights provide. The free event begins at 8:00pm, and will be a thrilling experience for children and adults alike.

Florida – J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge

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Last week, we discovered a rainbow of colorful shells along the Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel. Nearby is the J. N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society, which is located on Sanibel, and is world famous for its spectacular migratory bird populations,

Named for Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and pioneer environmentalist Jay Norwood Darling, the 6,400-acre wildlife refuge features wonderful bird watching spots, delightful footpaths, winding canoe trails and three trails that can be accessed from Wildlife Drive.

In Celebration of National Wildlife Refuge Week they will host the “Ding” Darling Days on Sanibel Island, Florida from October 19-25. The week long festival will feature plenty of free events for friends and family to join, including 60-minute naturalist narrated tram tours, archery demos and clinics, hands-on nature crafts, as well as face-painting, and environmental displays and informational booths with giveaways to fill your FREE 25th Anniversary bag.

Visit A National Wildlife Refuge

Protecting wildlife and wildlife habitat on more than 150 million acres of land and water from the Caribbean to the Pacific, and Maine to Alaska, the nation’s National Wildlife Refuge System host annual events, festivals, and programs to join year-round. To explore a National Wildlife Refuge in your state visit this website.

Wild Wednesday Facts:

  • Did you know? A pelican’s bill can hold more than its belly.
  • The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge was created to share the beauty of nature as well as to protect our national symbol, the bald eagle.
  • The smallest urban refuge in the country 72 acres is Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge, located in Arvada, Colorado, and has over 120 species of birds and a variety of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians thriving in the refuge.
  • We explored many events to join at our National Parks and Refuges during National Park Week in April. Coming up in Mid October is National Wildlife Refuge Week when you can celebrate your wildlife heritage at the nation’s 562 national wildlife refuges, which will host festive events, programs, and plenty of outdoor activities to share with family and friends.

Do you have a favorite National Wildlife Refuge?


With a passion for travel and creativity, Journalist and Photographer, Melody Schubert let’s her imagination guide her as she explores the world. For her, everyday is an opportunity to embrace something new, and explore intriguing and overlooked destinations that express the heart of a region, and share these discoveries with readers of Travel Freak. She is also Editorial Executive for USA Travel Magazine - http://www.usatravelmagazine.com/ where she shares more of travel interests.

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