T-minus 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge, located at the eastern edge of the Missouri River Valley, about two miles south of Mound City, MO., can be reached via exit 79 off Interstate I-29. Established in the 1930s after early 20th-century efforts to farm the frequently flooded bottomlands failed, the land was reverted to the federal government.
A series of low dykes are used to control the water structures, nearly half of the refuge’s approximate 7,400 acres is managed as shallow marshland, with the rest being deciduous woodlands, pastures, wetlands and croplands. Many of the original facilities were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration. It is an Internationally Important Bird Area (IBA.)
During spring and fall migrations, Loess Bluffs wetlands attract close to 600,000 snow geese and 200,000 duck species. During these times there are, as many as 400 bald eagles have been spotted over the years.
The refuge is home to 310 bird species (including nesting bald eagles and other migrating waterfowl) This total places the refuge among the most bird-rich locations in the upper Great Plains region and represents the largest number of bird species reported from any national wildlife refuge in Missouri. Also, there are documented counts of 33 mammal species, and 35 reptile and amphibian species.
Loess Bluffs N.W.R. is a natural jewel, offering a small reflection of what the Missouri Valley’s wildlife might look like during July of 1804, when Lewis and Clark traversed up the middle Missouri River valley, through a region that is now part of Mound City in northwestern Missouri.
Loess Bluffs N.W. R offers something to everyone no matter the age. During the first full weekend of December, when eagle numbers are likely to be near their maximum, “Eagle Days” are celebrated at Loess Bluffs visitor center. It is not uncommon then to see more than 100 bald eagles during a single trip around the refuge’s 9-mile perimeter road. Some might be perched on tall cottonwoods near the road but are more likely to be standing on muskrat “houses” in the middle of the marsh. Often an eagle will take flight and fly above the massed geese, causing a pandemonium, known as a “Blast-off” and offering the eagle an opportunity to detect any birds that are weak fliers or are otherwise vulnerable.
If you’ve never seen a flock of hundreds of thousands of snow geese birds, it should be on your “bucket list.”
I had to cut the trip short due to an incoming report of bad weather. I stayed still sundown, I was able to get some great sunset silhouette images.
Until next time, Loess Bluffs and your magnificent creatures.
Until the next adventure.
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