Friends of Necedah National Wildlife Refuge

The friends of Necedah National Wildlife Refuge is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to providing time and funds to support the many activities of the refuge.  As volunteers, we give over 10,000 hours each year to refuge activities and projects and every dollar we earn is returned to fund those projects.

Refuge History

The beginnings of the refuge started with the creation of Glacial Lake Wisconsin. It was a large lake that formed about 18,000 years ago when a glacier blocked the outlet of the Wisconsin River around the Baraboo Hills. The lake covered an area of almost 44,000 square miles and reached a depth of 160 feet. It lasted for about 4,000 years until the glacier retreated and the lake drained catastrophically through the south end, carving the Dells of the Wisconsin River in a few days. The lake left behind a flat sandy plain that is now part of the Central Sand Plains and Central Sand Hills ecological landscapes of Wisconsin. The lake also influenced the formation and distribution of the glacial features that are part of the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve, such as moraines, drumlins, eskers, kames, and kettles. The lake also provided habitat for various plants and animals that adapted to the cold and wet conditions. Glacial Lake Wisconsin was one of the largest and longest-lasting proglacial lakes in North America and had a major impact on the geology, ecology, and culture of the region.

In the beginning of the last century, the land that was to become the refuge was ditched, drained and subdivided to encourage farming. Land speculators sold these parcels to families who tried to grow crops on very sandy soil. The poor soil and the Great Depression forced most of the families into bankruptcy and the farms into foreclosure. After much of the land was abandoned, the refuge was established in 1939 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife. Today, all that remains of these early farming efforts is a stone silo seen on the Bog Haunter Trail and an old foundation near the site of the Whooping Crane restoration project. The refuge covers an area of almost 44,000 acres, which was once part of a vast peat bog and sand ridges formed by the ancient Glacial Lake Wisconsin. The refuge is home to a diverse ecosystem of wetlands, savannas, and woodlands, which provide habitat for many common and protected species, such as whooping cranes, sandhill cranes, Karner blue butterflies, wolves, red-headed woodpeckers, and trumpeter swans.

The refuge also preserves the cultural heritage of the Native American tribes that inhabited the area, such as the Ho-Chunk, Sauk, Fox, Potawatomi, and Ojibwa. The refuge offers opportunities for people to enjoy and learn about nature through wildlife-compatible activities, such as hiking, hunting, fishing, and attending educational and interpretive programs. The refuge also hosts the Wisconsin Federal Junior Duck Stamp Contest, which encourages students to learn about waterfowl conservation and express their creativity through art. Necedah National Wildlife Refuge is a vital link in the National Wildlife Refuge System, which is a network of over 560 refuges and other protected areas that conserve wildlife and habitats for the benefit of present and future generations.