We know very little about the ancient people that once inhabited Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida. Scant evidence reveals a culture known as the Calusa, who first ventured into this vast swamp over 4,500 years ago. In this sea of grass, they found a wetlands cornucopia, feasting on large amounts of fish, deer, shellfish, reptiles, plums, berries and more. First contact with European explorers led to conflict and disease. By the 1800s, the remaining Calusa were absorbed into the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes. Today, archaeologists continue to roam this unique environment, looking for clues of a lost culture. Photo by National Park Service.
The end of the day provokes purple skies and tranquil waters at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland. This brackish tidal marsh is a vital waterfowl sanctuary. It was created to support birds migrating along the Atlantic Flyway, and does that and so much more. All week long we’ve been celebrating the varied and critical roles of national wildlife refuges and Blackwater is no different. The tidal marsh buffers storm waters, slows erosion and absorbs pollutants before they reach the bay. Photo courtesy of Youchun Yao.
One of the best things about getting outdoors is seeing wildlife. We can admire their uniqueness and imagine their lives. How high can a bluebird fly? Do deer get sad in the rain? What do alligators eat? How nervous is that turtle right now? These are the questions we ask ourselves on World Animal Day. Discover more fascinating wildlife stories at Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy of Mickey Foster, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service volunteer.
It turns out, the golden views at Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge are what you find at the end of the rainbow. This Colorado wildlife refuge offers glimpses of both the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Great Sand Dunes National Park in the distance. The auto-tour route between April and early fall allows a drive, in solitude, amongst wetlands home to dozens of bird species. Along the Rio Grande River Trail, you will see a wide variety of habitats, from lush grasses to dense stands of willow, to towering cottonwood trees. Photo courtesy of Patricia Henschen.
The sky may be gold, but the real treasure is the water, land and legacy of conservation. Located along the northeast coast of Massachusetts, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge is comprised of more than 4,700 acres of diverse habitats including sandy beach and dune, cranberry bog, maritime forest, freshwater marsh and a large expanse of salt marsh – one of the most productive ecosystems in nature. Parker River provides pristine coastal habitat for over 300 species of resident and migratory birds, as well as a large variety of mammals, insects, fish, reptiles and amphibians. Photo courtesy of Samantha Bugler.
This shouldn’t be a surprise, but cypress trees are an important part of Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida. A cypress dome is a fascinating habitat. Forming over an underwater depression, the tallest trees grow in the deepest water and the smaller trees grow along the edge in the shallower water, giving the dome its shape. The trees’ wide bases help them absorb water and keep them stable in storms. Epiphytic plants attach themselves to the tree trunks, earning them the name of airplants. River otters and alligators make their homes here, too. It’s probably not a place you’d want to live, but the shade, colors and reflection are worth the visit. Photo by National Park Service.
Green and vibrant, Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge on Kaua‘i’s north shore shows off the Hanalei River Valley in Hawaii. Steep hillsides and stunning overlooks surround the wetlands and river valley with mountain views. The refuge was created to provide over 900 acres of vital habitat for rare and endangered birds such as the Hawaiian stilt, coot, gallinule and duck. Photo by Timothy Burton (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Get ⚡️charged up for the weekend! Florida’s dramatic thunderstorms and gorgeous wetlands make an appearance together at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. The refuge, located in Broward and Palm Beach Counties – protects the northern Everglades and the mosaic of plants and animals that call this ecosystem home. Photo courtesy of Ross Macdonald.
Leave behind the hustle and bustle to spend calm moments at Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge. Lake Mattamuskeet is the centerpiece of the refuge and at 40,100 acres, is North Carolina’s largest natural lake. Promising scenic water views, walking trails and peaceful surroundings, visitors find the refuge a serene excursion while visiting the Outerbanks. Lake Mattamuskeet provides a reliable place to see birds and other wildlife living their best lives. Photo of a sunrise flight by Keith Ramos, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Nestled in the valley of the Mission Mountains, take in the peaceful reservoir of Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge. In the winter, visitors enjoy ice fishing and ice skating but as the temperatures rise and the ice thaws, this northwestern Montana landscape comes alive for breeding birds. This refuge is within the Flathead Indian Reservation and aids in preserving important wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region. If you visit, look for flocks of trumpeter swans, great blue heron rookeries, bald eagle and osprey nests, Forster’s tern colonies, snowy owls in the winter, western grebes and much more. Photo by William Archer (www.sharetheexperience.org).