Skip to Navigation

Squaw Creek NWR

Site Facts

Country, State,
USA, Missouri

Relative Location:
Mound City, Missouri

40.12 N, 95.25W


Basis for Designation:
Used by more than 60,000 shorebirds annually

7,415 acres (3,002 ha)

January, 2007

Site Owner/Steward:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Wildlife Refuge System

Site Partners:
Friends of Squaw Creek NWR, Missouri Department of Conservation, Burroughs Audubon Society, Midland Empire Audubon Society, USGS, and Mound City Chamber of Commerce

Human Population within 100 km:
Over 1 million

Darrin Welchert
Wildlife Biologist
Squaw Creek NWR


Squaw Creek NWR is located in northwestern Missouri and is contained within the Lower Missouri River Ecosystem. The Refuge is located 5 miles northeast of the Missouri River and lies within the eastern border of the Missouri River floodplain. The eastern portion of the Refuge extends in to the Loess Hills adjacent to the valley floor.

Physical and Ecological Features
The Refuge lies at the base of highly erodible upland in the Loess Hills and is directly influenced by Squaw and Davis creeks which drain approximately 60,000 acres of watershed. Because of its extreme topography, the total drainage area produces rapid runoff which resulted in severe erosion on disturbed areas and siltation in the wetlands located on the Refuge just after it was established in 1935. However, in recent years, soil conservation measures such as grassed waterways, terraces and water retention ponds have reduced erosion and silt loading on the Refuge resulting in ideal habitat for shorebirds and other wetland species.

Land Ownership and Protected Status
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Wildlife Refuge System.

The Refuge is characterized by a continental climate, experiencing a wide range of temperatures throughout the season with average winter lows of 15.9 ºF and summer highs of 89.9 ºF. The average annual precipitation is 35.24 inches.

Ecological Value
Squaw Creek NWR typically harbors a minimum of 60,000 shorebirds, 150,000 ducks, 250,000 geese, and 250 Bald Eagles annually.

Important Historical Facts
The Refuge was established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 under Executive Order 7156 to “…effectuate further the purpose of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act.” The Refuge’s first Comprehensive Conservation Plan was completed in 2005.

Socioeconomic Value
Squaw Creek NWR hosts approximately 140,000 visitors annually. The Refuge is well known for its Eagle Days Festival which attracts up to 10,000 visitors each year. An economic study conducted in 2004 revealed that the recreation benefits of the Refuge input $3.5 million into the local economy annually.

Ecology & Conservation

Habitat Description
Most of the 7,415 acres comprising the Refuge are located along the eastern edge of the Missouri River floodplain in an historic wetland area. Habitat types include 1,000 acres of bottomland forest, 291 acres of bottomland mesic prairie, 1,077 acres of wet prairie, 378 acres of Loess Hill forest, 221 acres of Loess Hill prairie, 3,409 acres of managed wetlands, and 176 acres of non-managed wetlands. Developed land, which includes administrative areas, channalized ditches and roads accounts for 251 acres.

Shorebird Use
The Refuge provides habitat for a minimum of 60,000 shorebirds annually. Thirty eight species of shorebirds use the area with Greater Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, and White-rumped Sandpipers being the dominant species. Rare shorebird species using the Refuge include Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones, Black-necked Stilts, and Buff-breasted Sandpipers.

Other Wildlife Use
Squaw Creek NWR also harbors approximately 250 species of passerines, 4 species of geese,15 species of ducks, 33 species of mammals, 25 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 20 species of odonates. Threatened and Endangered species that use the Refuge include the Bald Eagle, Piping Plover, Least Tern and Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake.

Impacts and Disturbance to Shorebirds
Refuge access is highly controlled resulting in little human induced disturbance.

Threats to the Site
The major threat to Refuge wetlands is gradual siltation. This has been slowed by watershed improvement projects.

Habitat Protection
Refuge habitat is well protected and continually improved through active management.

Management Activities and Priorities
Management of seasonally flooded impoundments for shorebirds is a high priority and part of the Refuge’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan.

Shorebird Related Research
1) Estimating shorebird numbers at migration stopover sites, completed in 2005

2) Currently the refuge is involved in a joint study being conducted by USGS and the USFWS entitled “Timing of impoundment drawdowns and impact on waterbird, invertebrate, and vegetation communities within managed wetlands”. This study is specifically aimed at shorebird habitat management

3) A proposal entitled “Population Estimates for Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) on National Wildlife Refuges and Associated State and Private Lands of the Lower Missouri River Ecosystem” has been submitted for USFWS SSP funds.

Literature Cited
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2005. Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge comprehensive conservation plan and environmental assessment. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ft. Snelling, Minnesota. 233 pp.

Farmer, A. and F. Durbian. 2006. Estimating shorebird numbers at migration stopover sites. The Condor. 108:792-807.

Special Information

The Squaw Creek NWR Eagle Days Festival is held annually during the first weekend of December. During this festival people may attend a live eagle show, take bus tours of the Refuge, visit eagle viewing stations around the auto tour route, and view up to 300 Bald Eagles, 200,000 ducks, and 350,000 snow geese.

The Annual Christmas Bird Count is one of the most popular in Missouri and attracts some of the best birders in the region.

Environmental education is a high priority with a large number of public schools and universities making frequent trips to the refuge.

Although there is no waterfowl hunting on the Refuge there are nearly 100 private hunting clubs around and near the refuge that provide thousands of hours of wildlife dependent recreation which is important to the local economy.

Teal Pool wetland Development, completed in 2004, was a cooperative project with the Missouri Department of Transportation. The development converted approximately 35 acres of reed canary grass to a shallow managed wetland. Saved tax payers approximately $950,000.

Most of the headquarters public use facilities have been upgraded from 2003 to present including the addition of a state of the art audiovisual system in a new 1,300 sq. ft. auditorium and an outdoor classroom.

The Mallard Marsh wetland development, completed in 1991, restored approximately 800 acres of wetlands and moist soil units. Partners included Ducks Unlimited, National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, Missouri Department of Conservation and 103 private donors. Total project costs = $96,000.

Contact Us

Darrin Welchert
Wildlife Biologist
Squaw Creek NWR
PO Box 158
Mound City, Missouri 64470