Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge
by Dawn Ballou
April 18, 2005
The Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge, located approximately an hour and a half south of Pinedale, is a good place to go to see a variety of bird species. The Refuge is a narrow riparian corridor, approximately 1 to 1-1/2 mile wide, along 36 miles of the Green River in southwestern Wyoming. It is a ribbon of green through otherwise dry, barren high desert plains.
The refuge is located downstream from Fontenelle reservoir on the Green River, south of LaBarge. Managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, it was established in 1965 to help offset wildlife habitat loss when Fontenelle and Flaming Gorge Dams were built. The 25,968-acre refuge has a variety of habitats including wetlands, river, cottonwood-willow riparian areas and sagebrush uplands which support a wide variety of wildlife species that spend all or part of the year at the refuge.
The early Shoshone Indians who lived in the area named the Green River "Sisk-a-dee-agie" or "river of the prairie hen". Through the pronunciation changes by fur trappers, the Shoshone name was later changed to "Seedskadee." The prairie hen is actually the sage grouse, which are native to the sagebrush plains of the surrounding area.
Thousands of migratory birds use the refuge as a stopping off point while traveling north to their breeding grounds in the spring. The best time to see the most variety of species, and have good road conditions, is May. Wildlife species that might be seen include songbirds (yellow warbler and northern Bullock’s oriole), raptors, bald eagles, great blue herons, swans, Canada geese, many species of ducks, red-wing blackbirds and more. It is also common to see big game including antelope and deer. Moose, beaver and porcupine may be spotted by those who are lucky. There are many bird nests and at least one Great Blue Heron rookery in the refuge. See the end of this article for a bird checklist for 227 species that have been observed at the refuge.
Many recreation activities are permitted on the refuge including fishing, hiking, canoeing and photographing wildlife. Motorized boats are not recommended due to the shallow nature of the river, but canoes, drift boats and rafts are ok. There are three boat launches in the refuge. Personal water craft and jet boats are prohibited. Hunting is permitted in certain locations with valid Wyoming licenses.
An auto tour route takes visitors near a variety of habitat areas and interpretive sign stations. The main refuge gravel road is generally passable to passenger vehicles during the summer months. Other dirt side roads exist to access more remote areas of the refuge, however these are pretty rough and recommended for high-clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicles and dry road conditions. All vehicles, bicycles, ATVs and motorcycles must stay on designated roads. Pets must be kept on a leash.
There are a couple interpretive locations on the main road which offer good views for those who bring binoculars. In order to get good photo close-ups of bird species from the road, you’ll need a telephoto lens. Otherwise, expect to do a bit of quiet hiking to get down closer to marsh areas to zoom in on waterfowl. This is permitted, however refuge managers ask that people stay at least 400 yards away from swans to avoid disturbance.
For history buffs, this area is extremely unique. The Oregon Trail passes right through the refuge. This includes the main Oregon/California/Mormon Trail and the Pony Express Trail. Marker posts designate the location of the trail. The Lombard Ferry crossing on the Green River is also located in the refuge area, and there are interpretive signs at the Historical Site. Between 1843 and the 1900s many thousands of people and stock crossed the Green River at this location on their way west. A bit further south from the Lombard Ferry site, still in the refuge, is the confluence of the Big Sandy and the Green Rivers, a camp site for explorers and fur trappers who ventured into the Upper Green River Valley in the early 1800s.
A small visitor center and park headquarters are located in the refuge, open weekdays from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm. Refuge hours are a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset year-round. There is no charge for the visitor center or to drive through the area. The refuge is located in a remote area and food/gas/lodging services are not available nearby. Visitors should bring sufficient water, food and fuel for their visit.
Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge
P.O. Box 700
Green River, WY 82935