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Upper Mississippi River
National Wildlife and Fish Refuge 1924   —— The First 100 Years ——  2024

map showing location of refuge along Mississippi Canvasback Logo

Celebrate the Refuge Centennial in 2024!

A century ago, a monumental movement of determined citizens petitioned Congress to create the largest "wild-life preserve" ever in order to save their favorite upper Mississippi River backwaters from being drained and converted to farmland. Spearheading the movement was the charismatic Will Dilg whose newly created Izaak Walton League championed the refuge as its first magnificent achievement.

The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge has been a haven for fish, wildlife, and people since 1924. The Refuge stretches 261 river miles from Wabasha, Minnesota to Rock Island, Illinois, protecting over 240,000 acres of Mississippi River floodplain. The Refuge hosts over 3.7 million annual visits for hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, and other recreation. These are just a few examples of wildlife that this national and international treasure hosts:

  • 306 species of birds
  • 300+ bald eagle nests
  • 50% of the world's canvasback ducks
  • 20% of eastern U.S. tundra swans
  • 51 species of mammals
  • 42 species of freshwater mussels
  • 119 species of fish

Do you have or want to plan a centennial-themed event for 2024? We want to hear from you! Contact:


The Centennial Celebrations Have Begun!

News Articles and Programs:

  1. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Refuge Centennial

  2. Outdoor News

  3. Hallie Schultz, USFWS, discusses Centennial March 15 on WIZM

Will Dilg returns to the Pump House and Lansing:

  1. News8000: Actor and writer Steven Marking brings wildlife celebration to stage

  2. WXOW News 19: History of Upper Mississippi National Wildlife & Fish Refuge on display at Pump House

  3. Lansing Celebrations, March 8-9 (event poster).

River Cities Proclaim Importance of Refuge

Cities along the upper Mississipi River are acknowledging the importance of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge to their communities by proclaiming the week of June 7, 2024 as "Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge Day"

Mayor Mitch Reynolds signs the city of La Crosse's centennial proclamation, January 10, 2024 (enlarge)

Refuge Centennial Photo Contest Winners Announced

Fifty-seven incredible entries from 22 photographers were received and judges have selected winning entries. Contest winners and their photographs are displayed on the Friends of the Refuge Headwaters Photo Contest Page.

Winning photos will become part of an exhibit displayed at public events throughout the Refuge Districts in 2024. Best of Show will be determined by public voting during these exhibits.

The winning photos are on display:

  • Through early April at the Winona County Historical Society, 160 Johnson Street, Winona, Minnesota 55987
  • at the USFWS La Crosse District Visitor Center on Brice Prairie from April 17, 2024 - June 29th 2024

More display dates coming!