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Winter Activities on National Wildlife Refuges

Courtesy of the National Wildlife Refuge System:

Make the Season Merry at a National Wildlife Refuge System

Walk in a winter wonderland. Hear sleigh bells ring. Make the season bright at a national wildlife refuge near you. Check out some of the free, family-friendly holiday-season activities that wildlife refuges will host through the New Year. Look here for added listings as the holidays draw closer.

Cut Your Own Christmas Tree

Work off those holiday-season calories by cutting your own tree at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Maine or Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

  • Moosehorn Refuge lets visitors cut two balsam fir or pine trees per person, starting at the end of November. The trees must be cut to maintain road safety. Pick up a free permit from the refuge office before you cut.
  • Kenai Refuge lets visitors hand-cut one tree per family between Thanksgiving and Christmas. No fees or permits are required. Cutting is restricted to certain areas.

Winter Tram Tour

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, VA

Take a ride on an open-air tram and see the ducks, geese and swans that make the refuge their winter home. Continue into False Cape State Park for a one-mile hike to the Wash Woods cemetery and church site. $8 per person. Reservations are required: 757-426-7128. Dates are:

December 21, 1 to 4:30 p.m.

Winter Sleigh Rides

Sleigh Ride on National Elk Refuge | Lori Iverson, USFWS
Sleigh Ride on National Elk Refuge | Lori Iverson, USFWS

Starting Monday, December 15 — National Elk Refuge, WY

Horse-drawn sleigh rides onto the refuge are a popular winter activity, allowing riders a unique wildlife viewing experience and an incredible opportunity to photograph the elk that winter on the refuge. For details, see: http://1.usa.gov/1646lhY or http://bit.ly/1djB8Mb. Sleigh rides will continue through Saturday, April 4, daily except for Christmas.

Christmas Bird Count

Scores of refuges take part each year in this bird census, coordinated by the National Audubon Society. Dates vary. Check Refuge System event listings to see if your nearby refuge is participating, or check the Audubon site. Here are a few examples of participating refuges:

  • December 20, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, MN
  • Join Friends of Sherburne Refuge to count birds on the refuge and in the local area. Meet at refuge headquarters.
  • December 27, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge, MN
  • Take part in a historic seasonal bird count.
  • December 30, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, TX
  • Take part in the 18th annual Trinity River Christmas Bird Count for northern Liberty County. Areas to be counted include the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, Tarkington Prairie and Gaylor Lake. Meet at 7 a.m. at the Valero Gas station located at the intersection of Hwy 105 and Hwy 321, about 6 miles southeast of Cleveland.

Winter is an excellent season to experience nature and see wildlife. Visit your local wildlife refuge for tips on how to identify wildlife tracks in the snow, spot owls and raptors, or other birds wintering over and analyze scat and other signs that wildlife is nearby.


To keep up with what’s happening around America’s wildlife refuges, sign up for The Flyer, our monthly newsletter to keep refuge supporters informed!

Permanent link to this article: https://www.refugeassociation.org/2014/12/winter-activities-on-national-wildlife-refuges/

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