Did you know that the state of Iowa has an amazing wildlife refuge where bison and elk roam free? Let us introduce you to the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge!

Located in Prairie City, Iowa, the 6,000-acre Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1990 to "protect, restore, reconstruct and manage diverse native communities of tallgrass prairie, sedge meadow and aquatic ecosystems and the natural processes essential to these ecosystems to enhance the vitality and health of the native prairie environment." Their mission also includes managing the "biologically diverse populations of native wildlife associated with healthy prairie, savanna, sedge meadow and aquatic ecosystems." That includes bison, elk, and over 200 species of grassland birds.

As part of their 10Best Readers' Choice Awards for 2024, USA Today has named the ten best national wildlife refuges to visit in America. According to the article, there are 570 refuges across the country, with at least one in each of the 50 states. That's why it's such an honor that USA Today readers chose the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge as the number one pick!

Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge offers lots of recreational and educational activities for visitors all year round. There's a visitor center that has hands-on educational exhibits, a bike trail, five different hiking trails, and a five-mile auto tour that takes you through the bison and elk enclosure. It's also a popular place for nature photography, snowshoeing, foraging, bird-watching, picnicking, and field trips. The refuge is open daily from dawn until dusk and admission is free. You can get more information before your visit HERE.

Only one other Midwest wildlife refuge made USA Today's top ten, and that's the Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge in Madison, Indiana. You can check out the rest of the list HERE.

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