As heat and humidity grip much of the country over the next few months, those of us in the Midwest and Southeast will look for escapes to cooler, northern climes. For naturalists, one option is a visit to Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge, in northwest Vermont.
The Missisquoi River rises in the uplands of northeast Vermont, loops westward through southern Canada and then returns to Vermont to enter Lake Champlain along its northeastern shore. There it has created a delta of marshlands, channels, mudflats and islets, providing ideal nesting and feeding grounds for migrant and resident waterfowl, shorebirds, waders, rails and wetland songbirds. Established in 1943, the Missisquoi NWR now protects the delta, the adjacent Big Marsh Slough and parcels of northern forest. At least 300 species of birds visit the refuge throughout the year and nesting species include ospreys, great blue herons, least bitterns, black terns, common goldeneyes, soras and Virginia rails, among many others.
Missisquoi NWR is located NNW of Swanton, Vermont, which is just west of I-89 (Exit 21). Like most of our National Wildlife Refuges, it is accessible from dawn to dusk every day of the year; the refuge Visitor Center is open M-F and most Saturdays from mid May through October. Adventurous visitors might want to rent a canoe in Swanton and explore the refuge marshlands from the cool waters of Lake Champlain.