DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge is over 8,000 acres of Missouri River floodplain habitat. The primary purpose of the refuge is to serve as a stop-over for migrating ducks and geese. During typical years, large concentrations of waterfowl and other migratory birds utilize the refuge as a resting and feeding area during the fall and spring migrations. One of the main water features of the refuge is an oxbow lake that used to be a bend in the Missouri River. In the mid 1800’s, numerous steamboats traveled up the Missouri River and came across this treacherous bend, which got its nickname DeSoto Bend for the nearby river town of DeSoto.
One of the more memorable events along this bend was that of the Steamboat Bertrand, which in 1865 was traveling upriver to a mining town in Fort Benton, Montana when it hit a snag and wrecked on what is now refuge grounds. All passengers escaped unharmed but the boat quickly became submerged and eventually buried by the muddy Missouri. It lay forgotten about until 1968 when two Omaha businessmen, Sam Corbino and Jesse Pursell, located the wreck and led an excavation of its cargo. Today, the refuge’s visitor center is home to the archaeological collection containing over 250,000 artifacts excavated from the buried wreck of the Steamboat Bertrand.
While visiting the refuge, visitors can stop in at the visitor center to discover the Bertrand Steamboat cargo and to learn about the wildlife and habitat of the refuge. During spring and fall migration, the visitor center viewing windows provide great opportunities to observe the migrating waterfowl and other birds such as bald eagles. Visitors can also explore a variety of habitats at four hiking trails. Three of these trails are open year round to explore throughout the seasons. Besides hiking, visitors can bike the refuge on all of the open roads throughout the year. Visitors can also boat at no wake speeds, kayak, canoe and fish on DeSoto Lake from April 15th to October 14th. Hunting is allowed in permitted areas during the refuges designated hunt seasons. For more information on these activities, or for maps, please visit the refuge website.
Nearby Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge is a mixture of floodplain forest, tall grass prairie, and wetlands. The habitats spread across the units surrounding the main island. The main island is created by a restored side chute off of the Missouri River creating unique hiking opportunities for visitors, as well as biking opportunities. Hunting and fishing opportunities are open during various times of the year.