Rural Missouri Magazine

Where the birds are
Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge

by Jarrett Medlin

There is a place in northwest Missouri where thousands of migratory birds flock each fall, yellow-billed pelicans float on pools of water and bald eagles perch high among the trees.

At Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge, a preserved piece of the Missouri River bottoms provides a winter haven to a vast array of wildlife. The refuge hosts 301 bird species, 33 mammal species, and 35 reptile and amphibian species.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the 7,350-acre refuge in 1935 as a resting, feeding and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife. The creation of Squaw Creek Refuge protected a small portion of the Missouri River floodplain from drainage, so future generations could glimpse the abundance of wildlife first documented by famed explorers Lewis and Clark.

Today, more than 120,000 guests visit Squaw Creek each year and drive the 10-mile trek that circles the reserve. During the winter, they can hear a cacophony of geese and ducks, as well as bald eagles, pelicans, red-tailed hawks (shown at right), herons, cranes, owls and hundreds of other bird species. The wetlands range from open pools and mud flats to flooded woodlands and cattail-filled marshes. Dome-shaped mounds, built by an abundant population of muskrats, also dot the lakes and make handy perches for birds.

Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge is open year-round from dusk to dawn and is free to all visitors. For more information, call (660) 442-3187, or log onto

Rural Missouri | June 2020 Issue

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