The DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge near Blair was hit hard by the Missouri River flooding last year and now drought is taking its toll. Still, the park remains open for business as nature has its own way of recovering from natural disasters.
Ed Micheels of Omaha has been fishing at DeSoto for years and treasures the memories. “My daughter and I was here a week ago Sunday. We never caught a fish, but the fish ain't that important. It's just being able to move around and enjoy it.”
Last year at this time there was no way to enjoy anything as 95 percent of the refuge was underwater. You can still see where some paved roads were washed away and thousands of trees killed by the floodwater still stand.
Last year, pretty much everything was covered in water. This year, almost everything is covered in weeds and even though they may seem like a nuisance, they are actually very important for the fall migration.
“Just rub that flower, you can see all the seeds,” says DeSoto manager Tom Cox. “That's the food source for these birds that are going to be migrating thousands of miles this fall.”
While food will be plentiful, the habitat for waterfowl could be limited. This year's drought has dried up a lot of the marshes, which could mean a shortage of habitat for birds headed south. “It's going to be a little bit harder road,” says Cox. “We have good habitat, it just remains to be seen if it will be enough for the migration.”
I've been pretty lucky, I guess,” says Micheels. There's still plenty of room for humans to enjoy some peace and quiet.
The park is open every day from dawn to dusk and admission is $3 per vehicle. The most spectacular part of the fall migration usually begins in mid-to-late November when thousands of waterfowl make DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge their temporary home.