Little River National Wildlife Refuge Located in southeastern Oklahoma was established February 10, 1987 as the nation's 438th Refuge under authority of Migratory Bird Conservation Act. Its purpose is to preserve bottomland hardwood habitat along Little River for the benefit of migrating and wintering waterfowl. The Refuge, which will encompass 15,000 acres, is located in the floodplain along the north side of Little River and is characterized by low, wet habitat with oak and hickory forest and old oxbows and sloughs interspersed through the area. Beavers dam up some of the creeks to provide additional waterfowl habitat in the area.
The rapid destruction of bottomland hardwood habitat has increased the importance of areas such as this for migratory birds and for public recreation. This Refuge contains most of the remaining bottomland hardwood habitat in southeastern Oklahoma.
Most of the Refuge is forested with bottomland species such as willow oak, sweetgum, cypress, white oak, and holly, but some areas on higher ground support species such as loblolly pine, hickory, and walnut.
Some areas were clear cut prior to acquisition and replanted to pine plantations while other areas were clear cut and left as large open fields. Management will be directed at maintaining a diversity of habitat types such as now exist to benefit a diversity of wildlife species.
The refuge is known for the rare Swainson's warbler, the only known nesting location in Oklahoma. Flycatchers, swallows, vireos, and at least 31 species of warblers are all neotropical migrants on the refuge.
Wildlife Waterfowl, primarily mallards and wood ducks, have traditionally used the habitat within the Refuge. Other species which take advantage of the seasonally flooded bottomland hardwood habitat include wigeon, green-winged teal, and gadwall.
The area along Little River supports several endangered bald eagles each winter where they search for fish and waterfowl along the river and in the sloughs.
Deer and turkey occur on the Refuge in small numbers, and continued protection should result in an increased population due to the excellent habitat. Squirrels and rabbits are abundant while beaver and raccoon are found near water areas.
Several heron rookeries containing a variety of species of herons and egrets occur on the Refuge in addition to numerous other nesting species of migratory birds. Some of the more interesting and visible birds include red-shouldered hawks, red-tailed hawks, Mississippi kites, pileated woodpeckers, and turkey vultures. More than 225 bird species are found on the Refuge.
The Refuge is open all year for hiking, sightseeing and photography. Several roads are maintained in the Refuge which allow easy vehicle access to fishing and hunting areas.
Birdwatching is excellent due to the diversity of species found on the Refuge. There are several species that are more common the Refuge than other places in the state.
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