National Wildlife Refuge Week is observed each year during the second full week of October. It’s a special time to head outside and come together to celebrate the amazing biodiversity and natural habitats of America’s wildlife. This year, National Wildlife Refuge Week 2023 will occur from October 8-14. Mark your calendars and get ready for a lot of fun because there are many things to do at a wildlife refuge and terrific National Wildlife Refuge Week 2023 events happening near you, events that draw attention to the only system of public lands and waters in the U.S. that is devoted to wildlife conservation and the many benefits it provides to the natural world as well as to the local communities where we live, work, and play.
You might be wondering, are there wildlife refuges near me? The short answer is, probably! There are well over 500 national wildlife refuges spread across all 50 states, so there is a very good chance you'll find a national wildlife refuge near where you live or will be vacationing in October!
What are National Wildlife Refuges?
The National Wildlife Refuge System is a vast, impressive network of protected lands that includes 568 national wildlife refuges and conservation areas across the whole of the country. From Alaska to Alabama, Washington state to the Washington D.C. area, there are wildlife refuges in every single state. Like the National Park system, the system of National Wildlife Refuges was created a long time ago, dating back 120 years at the turn of the 20th century, although there is one very big difference between a park and a refuge that we’ll come to soon. The reason why there are wildlife refuges today is to protect iconic wildlife species. That’s the primary goal of these special places. Secondarily, there are also recreation opportunities for people to better connect with nature through:
• Wildlife viewing
• Learning to better respect vulnerable living things
• Take a walk and listen to the best outdoor podcasts
• Nature photography
• Ranger-led nature programs
• Spend time in nature for your mental health
The lands and waters found in the wildlife refuges in the United States are unique and distinctly different from their National Park cousins because here, the conservation of wildlife is paramount and takes precedence over the recreational activities and opportunities for humans like us, although there are many things to do at a wildlife refuge!
How to Visit a Wildlife Refuge
There will be stellar National Wildlife Refuge Week 2023 events for you to attend with friends and family, but it is important to remember that these National Wildlife Refuges are just that, wild, and in locations that haven't been chosen with humans in mind, but rather, they are prioritizing biodiversity. For this reason, national wildlife refuges may not be as visually stunning as, say, Glacier National Park, for example, but wildlife refuges in the US are every bit as critical to the critters and creatures living there!
Ever since its establishment in 1903, the National Wildlife Refuge system has been guided by the belief that effective wildlife management is impossible without also managing wildlife habitats. Wildlife Refuge Week is a great time to Google, "Wildlife refuges near me" and find a location and a slew of fun National Wildlife Refuge Week 2023 events for you to participate in and enjoy alone, with friends, or together with your kids to teach them about the importance of preserving and protecting the natural habits of American wildlife.
Some of what you can do during National Wildlife Refuge Week 2023, on the 95 million combined acres of national wildlife refuges, include:
• Bird watching
• Make seed 'bombs' and other crafts for wildlife
• Attend an educational talk
• Explore wetlands with a ranger
• Take photos
• Go for an educational walk with a ranger
The largest national wildlife refuge in the United States is probably not one you’ll visit during National Wildlife Refuge Week 2023, because it is found all the way up in Alaska's northeast corner! The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the biggest and wildest publicly owned land in our country, but when you look for wildlife refuges near you, you’ll find plenty of space to spend a day or two learning about the wildlife that also calls your neck of the woods home, and how you and your family can help ensure that they always will.
Check out these fun conservation activities you can do during National Wildlife Refuge Week, and all year long. And as we inch closer to the New Year, discover the 10 wildlife conservation resolutions you can make to have a positive impact on our natural ecosystems.