A western Iowa wildlife refuge reopened Monday after it flooded nearly two months ago and was closed to the public.
DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, which straddles Pottawattamie and Harrison counties in western Iowa and Washington County in eastern Nebraska, usually sees visitors year-round, but it had to close mid-March as the Missouri River rose and flooding practically turned it into an island.
Peter Rea, the supervisory park ranger for the refuge, said a maintenance team from DeSoto and other nearby refuges worked to repair two sections of paved road that the floodwaters washed out.
“A lot of fill had to be hauled in to fill that,” Rea said. “And right now instead of being repaved they’ve just been covered with gravel. So they’re kind of gravel patches as a temporary Band-Aid before we can get it completely fixed.”
Though the refuge has been closed to people for the last couple of months, Rea said flooding brought some animals to parts of the refuge where they wouldn’t normally go, like fields that would be dry but now have standing water.
“There’s a lot of birds feeding in those flooded areas because it’s shallow water,” Rea said. “And there’s a lot of fish that are trapped, so it’s kind of easy picking as far as feeding goes.”
Staff even had a couple of unusual sightings, like a little blue heron, which is typically found in the southeast United States.
Rea said staff are excited to see visitors return to the refuge, but there are some limitations in place. The refuge is still partially flooded. The boat ramps at the refuge are closed and some hiking trails still have some standing water. The south entrance is closed, but visitors can get into the refuge via Highway 30. The East Gravel Road is closed to car traffic, but people can access it on foot.
Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge, which is just south of DeSoto and on the Nebraska side of the Missouri River, is still closed.