• Nida Aley

A Pedacito Of Loess Bluff National Wildlife Refuge

Updated: Jun 19

In January 2017, this wildlife refuge was given the name Loess Bluff and thank God for that! Because it used to be called, get this, Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge! I mean, if you want to represent Native Americans, maybe not name the place a sexist and racist slur?!

A flock of geese flying through Loess Bluff
A flock of geese flying through Loess Bluff

It was established in 1935 by Franklin D. Roosevelt, meant to be a refuge for endangered wildlife and migratory birds. It is about 7,350 acres of land along the eastern edge of the Missouri River floodplain. South of Mound City in Holt County, Missouri.

The large expanse of land is part wetland, part grassland, and part forest. If you visit in late summer, it’s absolutely a photographer’s dream come true. My husband loves to take beautiful pictures (sadly never of me!), and he was like a child in a candy store. He couldn’t turn around fast enough to capture every bird and animal in view.

Loess Bluff had so many birds that I couldn't turn my head fast enough to see them all
Loess Bluff had so many birds that I couldn't turn my head fast enough to see them all

Towards the east of the refuge stretch these hills formed by yearly silt deposits. These silt hills run 30 miles across the horizon, from south of St. Joseph, MO, to the northern end of Iowa. This alluvium-rich soil is home to a range of native grass and plants like Indian grass, Big Bluestem, Blazing Star, Yucca, Beard-tongue, and Skeleton plant.

Some of the colorful foliage of Loess Bluff
Some of the colorful foliage of Loess Bluff

In 2001, the National Audubon Society named this wildlife refuge one of the top 500 Globally Important Bird Areas, and as if that wasn’t enough, in 2007, the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network designated the refuge a Site of Regional Importance.

We visited the refuge sometime in late 2019. We saw several bald eagles up close and were able to photograph as few mid-flight. It was just so surreal. Late fall and early winter are usually when bald eagles migrate to the refuge, so we had gone there at just the right time.


We saw many swans and mallards. At one point, they took off in flight at the same time and seemed to cover an entire portion of the sky. There’s swampland on either side of the road, and you can see various birds and animals on both sides.


We saw many baby cottontail rabbits and squirrels, but I was happiest to see a chubby little marmot. Their faces always seem like they're hiding a nut or two in there, and they always look grumpy to see you.


There are also these lovely and quite steep walking trails. Signs indicate which trail is the easy one and which is the harder one. If you're feeling lucky, you should try the harder, steeper one. We couldn't get all the way to the top, but we got about three-quarters of the way there, and the view from there was really something!

There were also several beaver dams and beaver homes. We had to wait a while before we caught sight of a beaver coming out of its home. Like an annoyed neighbor, it got up on the roof and yelled at us till we eventually went away! It totally made our day!


There were some changes to the timings due to Covid, and no events were being scheduled, but the refuge remains open from 30 minutes after sunrise to 30 minutes before sunset. Admission is free, and it really is worth a visit.


(All photographs taken by : Jon Aley. Jaley1@gmail.com IG: Jaley1)

 

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