A Safe Thanksgiving Getaway
By Jill Draper
If you’re looking for something different to do on the weekend after Thanksgiving or anytime in December, a two-hour drive north on I-29 provides an opportunity to see a unique natural spectacle.
This time of year at Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge (formerly known as Squaw Creek) you’ll encounter hundreds of thousands—maybe a million, if you’re lucky—of snow geese honking wildly, flying up in the air and swooping down on the many pools and flooded wetland fields in the 7,700-acre preserve.
There are also bald eagles, trumpeter swans, ducks, pelicans and shallow-water muskrat huts easily visible from an auto loop that winds around the various pools. The 10-mile dirt road begins and ends at the viewing platform below the visitor center, but vehicles can exit midway on a spur that leads to Mound City.
While the visitor center remains closed due to the pandemic, there are public restrooms and picnic tables nearby. Several short trails include the 1.3-mile Loess Bluff Trail that climbs up a hill south of the visitor center (some steps are involved) and onto a ridge, offering an elevated vantage point to view the pools from a distance. The trail descends onto an old road and back to the visitor center parking lot.
The refuge is free and open from sunup to sundown, when the gates automatically close. Dogs on a leash are welcome. Birds are always visible, but their numbers are influenced by the weather. Check for waterfowl counts before you go at fws.gov/refuge/loess_bluffs/.