The Fox River National Wildlife Refuge, managed by staff at Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, encompasses 1,004 acres of wetland and upland habitat along the Fox River in the Town of Buffalo. The refuge is closed to the public, with the exception of licensed deer hunters during designated time periods of the deer archery and gun seasons.
Getting There . . .
From Portage, take Highway 33 east to County Highway F north;
From Montello, take Highway 22 south to County Highway F south.
Refuge is on west side of County Highway F, across from John Muir County Park.
Refuge objectives include restoring, enhancing, and preserving the wetland and adjacent upland habitat historically found in extensive areas along the Fox River, namely Oak Savanna uplands and Sedge Meadow wetlands. Another objective is to restore, enhance, and preserve the wildlife populations that use the wetland and upland habitats along the Fox River, with special emphasis on those species dependent upon large expanses of natural marsh, such as the greater sandhill crane. Other objectives include protecting the habitats of any Federal or State endangered or threatened species that may utilize the refuge, such as Bald Eagles, and to make the refuge available for outdoor recreation, environmental education, and other public use activities compatible with the above objectives.
The majority of the current refuge was acquired in 1979 for the purpose of protecting an area known as the Fox River Sandhill Crane Marsh from further drainage, as well as preserving associated upland habitat. The refuge was purchased under the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Unique Wildlife Ecosystem Program. The primary objective was to preserve wetland and upland habitat along this section of the Fox River in an effort to support wildlife communities significantly different from other habitats within the region, as well as protect an important breeding and staging area for the greater sandhill crane.
Fox River National Wildlife Refuge is across the highway from a County Park named after John Muir, the famous conservationist, who lived during part of his boyhood years in the Town of Buffalo near the County Park and Fox River National Wildlife Refuge.
WILDLIFE AND HABITAT
The majority of the refuge is sedge meadow, wet prairie, and shallow marsh wetlands dominated by many species of sedges, grasses, and cattail. However, other wetland types such as fens, lowland forest, shrub-carr thickets, deep marsh, and open water occur on the refuge as well. Fens are a very rare wetland type in Wisconsin and harbor many state threatened and endangered plants. Upland habitats consist of closed canopy upland deciduous forest dominated by white, black, and bur oak, upland dry prairie, and oak savanna. Three spring-fed creeks flow through the refuge adding to the diversity of the area.
This matrix of the many wetland and upland habitat types present provides excellent habitat for both wetland and upland associated wildlife, such as ducks, greater sandhill cranes, herons, rails, songbirds, deer, turkey, and bobwhite quail. Approximately 50 greater sandhill cranes use the refuge during the summer, but more than 300 cranes use the refuge as a staging area during fall migration.
Wildlife and habitat management and restoration efforts employ the use of techniques such as prescribed burning, selective timber and woody shrub harvest, seeding of native prairie forbs, grass, and tree species, and exotic plant control. Hydrological restoration in refuge wetlands is accomplished via ditch filling, water level management, and stream course reestablishment. These restoration and management activities create biologically diverse, native, and productive wildlife habitats.