Top Ten National Wildlife Refuges for Paddling

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Picture of Okefenoke-National-Wildlife-Refuge
Picture of Okefenoke-National-Wildlife-Refuge (Alex L. Fradkin/Stockbyte/Getty)

10. Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida
Paddling the birthplace of the National Wildlife Refuge System offers visitors a chance to see manatees, herons, egrets, and roseate spoonbills up close. Paddle on your own or enjoy a guided tour of the refuge and Indian River Lagoon. Reservations are recommended.

9. John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, Pennsylvania
The refuge's 4.5-mile segment of Darby Creek winds through the largest freshwater tidal marsh in Pennsylvania before flowing into the Delaware River. See migratory birds including warblers, herons, egrets, and sandpipers, as well as bald eagles, kingfishers, and waterfowl. Enjoy great fishing along the way. Refuge waters are tidal and navigable only within two hours before and after high tide. Bring your own canoe or kayak. The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge website offers downloadable monthly tide charts, along with points of interest along a self-guided paddle tour.

8. Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada
From June 15 to December 31, paddlers can explore a large freshwater emergent marsh and waterfowl nesting haven along a six-mile marked trail in Nevada's high desert. For off-trail paddling, use a GPS to navigate the maze of bulrush islands. A route map is available at refuge headquarters. Paddlers must provide their own watercraft.

7. Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge, Vermont
Paddle past one of the most impressive great blue heron rookeries in the northeast, and catch glimpses of bald eagles, ospreys, waterfowl and neotropical migratory birds of the silver maple floodplain forest. Take a map and plan your trip so that you have enough daylight or moonlight to find your way in the delta's many channels. Canoe rentals are available nearby.

6. J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge, North Dakota
Paddlers can choose between a 5.5-mile route and a 13-mile route along the Souris River, which winds 75 miles through the refuge. The river provides habitat for muskrats (you might even see an albino one), minks, weasels, American bitterns, and ruddy ducks. Paddlers must have their own canoes or kayaks.


Published: 25 Aug 2010 | Last Updated: 24 Oct 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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