Top Ten National Wildlife Refuges for Paddling

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5. Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Michigan
The scenic Manistique River, which once carried thousands of logs to nearby sawmills, meanders through hardwoods, swamps, and mixed pine forests in the southern portion of the refuge. Paddlers may spot mergansers, spotted sandpipers, mink, river otter, and wood turtles. Canoes and river kayaks are available at nearby outfitters.

4. Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, North Carolina
Paddling is arguably the best way to see the refuge. You can explore 15 miles of color-coded water trails on your own, or take a guided canoe trip on Pea Island (two hours, $25; three hours, $35) or Alligator River (three hours, $35). To reserve guided trips, contact 252.475.4180.

3. Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon
A boat is a must for exploring this refuge, whose freshwater marsh and open water harbor waterfowl, eagles, osprey, and colonial nesting birds such as white pelicans and herons. The refuge has the most extensive marked canoe trail of the Klamath Basin Refuge Complex, made up of six refuges in northern California and southern Oregon. The Upper Klamath Refuge trail is open year-round, with boat rentals available from nearby concessions. A paddling brochure is available from refuge headquarters.

2. Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska
Two extensive canoe routes offer anything from day trips to weekend and multiday trips. The more heavily visited Swan Lake System route, about 60 miles long, contains 40 lakes linked by foot and water portages to the Moose River. The Swanson River System forms a strenuous 80-mile water route connecting 40 lakes and 46 miles of the Swanson River. Both systems offer excellent trout fishing and wildlife viewing for the hardy. Pack as lightweight as possible. Bring life jackets, hip waders, and wilderness experience.

1. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Southern Georgia and Northern Florida
This vast swamp, one of the country's best-preserved freshwater systems, is home to alligators, sandhill cranes, red-cockaded woodpeckers, carnivorous plants, and many other species. It also contains more than 120 miles of canoe trails. Call 912.496.3331 between the hours of 7 and 10:00 a.m. weekdays to request an overnight wilderness canoe permit. Requests can be made no more than two months in advance. Guided boat tours and boat rentals are also available.

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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