TAKE REFUGE: Go Wild This Summer

Alligators take up residence along the shores of the Santee Wildlife Refuge in S.C.

It’s often difficult to find time to celebrate the beauty of nature in a big city. Most of us get very little fresh air or a chance to see scenic landscapes during our daily routine. This can be especially true of life here in Washington, D.C.

But there is good news if your agenda includes reconnecting with the environment, seeing some of our country’s unique wildlife up close or even just taking a break from all those big buildings and smoggy skies.

Take refuge from the ordinary this summer at a national wildlife refuge. Unlike national parks and forests, there’s a national wildlife refuge in every state — and many are just a short drive from major cities and well-worn highways. Throughout the summer we’ll be highlighting some of these wondrous places and the wild animals that make them so special.

Related: Learn more about Defenders’ work on behalf of national wildlife refuges.

Is there a wildlife refuge near you that you think deserves top billing, is the best kept secret or that you just want to know more about? Comment on this post, and we’ll do our best to answer your questions or feature your refuge, here, on our blog.

Take Refuge at the Santee National Wildlife Refuge

The Santee National Wildlife Refuge rests on the northern shore of Lake Marion, South Carolina’s largest lake. The refuge was established on May 5, 1941 in Clarendon County, S.C. to make up for the loss of natural waterfowl and wildlife habitat caused by dams on the Santee and Cooper rivers.

Today, the refuge is cherished for the diversity of wildlife that calls the Santee home.

The adventurous might find a treasure trove of native wildlife, including alligators, storks and turtles, which tend to bask on the river’s shorelines.

Great egrets find important habitat on wildlife refuges in S.C.

A paradise for birders, more than 290 bird species have been recorded on the refuge, including the great horned owl and red tail hawk, which can be spied swooping down on prey or guarding their nests.

Next spring, check out the annual Birding and Nature Festival, where birders this year got a chance to check the rare olive-sided flycatcher off their life lists.

Not for the birds? The more adventurous might find a treasure trove of other native wildlife, including alligators and turtles, which tend to bask on the river’s shorelines.

A Refuge in Every State

On March 14, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt established what was to become the  first national wildlife refuge, Pelican Island, on the coast of Florida. Since then, the refuge system (managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) has upheld its duty to protect, preserve, conserve, and restore the biological integrity, diversity, and health of America’s plants and wildlife.

With more than 150 million acres, the National Wildlife Refuge System is home to thousands of wildlife species, including 280 of the federally listed threatened or endangered species in the U.S. As part of the mission to conserve wildlife, wildlife refuge lands are good places to go for a hike, scope-out or photograph unique wildlife, and much more. Many of the refuges have guided tours, nature trails, as well as hunting grounds and fishing spots.

The refuge system offers a safe and accessible place to reconnect with our nation’s natural treasures. There are refuge lands in all 50 states and many located near highways within an hour’s drive of most major cities.

Check out the Fish and Wildlife Service’s website to find a wildlife refuge near you.