Established in 1990 by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge protects habitat for wildlife in one of America’s busiest waterways. Scattered along 362 miles of the Ohio River in three states, 17 of the refuge’s 21 islands lie within West Virginia, two in Pennsylvania, and two in Kentucky. Important wetland habitats along the main stem of the Ohio River are targeted for future refuge acquisition and protection.
The refuge is home to more than 40 species of freshwater mussels, including the federally endangered fanshell and pink mucket. Refuge islands provide vital feeding and resting habitat for many birds during spring and fall migration. Two hundred species of birds use the refuge during the year, including bald eagles, great blue herons, osprey, and prothonotary warblers. Other wildlife, from rare tiger beetles to common white-tailed deer, also inhabit this floodplain refuge.
As part of the national wildlife refuge system, the Ohio River islands are managed under a ‘‘wildlife first’’ mission, but visitors are welcome. Refuge properties are open daily from sunrise until sunset. Although most of the islands are accessible only by boat, Middle Island at St. Marys offers bridge access, with a self-guided auto tour, a wildlife viewing blind, and a nature trail on the island. The refuge encourages wildlife-dependent recreation including wildlife observation and photography, fishing, and hunting. Special events with an environmental education emphasis take place primarily during the summer months.
This Article was written by Janet Butler
Last Revised on October 22, 2010