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Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge is located in the rural towns of Alabama and Shelby, midway between Rochester and Buffalo, NY. It has been described as one of the best kept secrets of Western New York. Teeming with wildlife, the refuge offers opportunities for the public to experience nature in all seasons. The refuge is one of over 500 national wildlife refuges in the United States. The National Wildlife Refuge System is the only network of federal lands dedicated specifically to wildlife conservation.

Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is one of over 500 national wildlife refuges in the United States. Iroquois NWR is a namesake of the Iroquois Indians, a Native American federation that resided in the north east. The federation was originally made up of five tribes: Cayuga, Oneida, Mohawk, Seneca and Onondaga. The Tuscarora entered the federation in the 1800's. The refuge lies in both Orleans and Genesee Counties, midway between Rochester and Buffalo, New York.

At the end of the last glacial period, a huge lake called Tonawanda covered much of Western New York. Through the slow passage of time the lake drained and filled until only a few swampy areas remained. Here, wildlife flourished in the diverse habitat.

Feeder Road in Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge

Centuries later, the Seneca Indians began to drain the swamp and clear some of the forests for farming. To the first European settlers in the early 19th century the remaining clusters of oak trees were reminiscent of an orchard and so they named the area "Oak Orchard Swamp." Settlers expanded artificial drainage of the swamp to improve logging and farming operations, but, plagued by high costs, and a cycle of muck fires and floods, the outcome was marginal at best. By the 1950s, landowners were looking to further develop and convert the lands to other uses. This development would have resulted in the loss of these vital wetlands forever.

On May 19, 1958 the federal government established the Oak Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, using funds from the sale of Migratory Bird Conservation Stamps, or "Duck Stamps". It is one link in a chain of over 500 National Wildlife Refuges across the United States. To avoid confusion with the neighboring Oak Orchard State Wildlife Management Area, the refuge was renamed Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge in 1964.

Look below for a main map of the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.  The main hiking trails in the NWR include the Kanyoo Nature Trail, Swallow Hollow Nature Trail and the Onondaga Nature Trail.  Many visitors also explore the NWR by utilizing the dikes.  Also check out Montezuma NWR located off I-90 near Waterloo, NY.

PDF of the above map click here.  

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