In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt designed the first wildlife refuge in the United States, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, in Florida. It was the first federal bird reservation created to protect the island’s bird population which was threatened due to settlements in the area.
At present, the U.S. has more than 562 such designated areas as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, with a mission to conserve, manage, and restore fish wildlife, their plant resources, and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans. Each year, the second full week of October (October 14-20 in 2018) is National Wildlife Refuge Week – seven days designated to celebrate these networks of lands and waters dedicated to preserving our wildlife heritage. There is at least one in every state and most are open to the public, free of charge. We have highlighted a few here, but for a complete list by state, visit fws.gov.
Just a half hour outside of Las Vegas is the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Center, home to 320 bird species, 53 mammal species, 35 reptile species, and four amphibian species. It was originally designated to protect desert bighorn sheep and encompasses more than 1.6 million acres.
The Las Vegas RV Campground is about a 30-40 minutes drive to the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Center.
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia is home to the storied Chincoteague Ponies, descendants of wild horses that have roamed this area of the Atlantic shores for more than 200 years. Chincoteague encompasses more than 14,000 acres of beach, dunes, marsh, and maritime forest. It was established in 1942 for migratory birds which can still be found today, including the endangered Piping Plover. The closest Thousand Trails locations are to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge Williamsburg RV Campground and Chesapeake Bay RV Campground.
More than 400 species of birds can be found at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas including the tallest birds in North America, the whooping cranes, which make the refuge their winter home. Other species that can be found are alligators, egrets, coyotes and sea turtles. Visit the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge when you stay at Thousand Trails’ Colorado River RV Campground.