About The Refuge
Established in 1994, as the 502nd national wildlife refuge in the country, the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge and Management Area is located in rural southwestern Indiana, in Pike and Gibson counties. The refuge is 30 miles north of the city of Evansville, Indiana by way of State Road 57 and adjacent to the small towns of Oakland City along State Road 64 and Winslow on State Road 61.
As of 2021 the Refuge was a mosaic of 10,295 acres of non-contiguous parcels, and the Refuge continues to grow. Acquisitions obtained each year from willing sellers move the Refuge closer to the completion of its authorized 22,472-acre boundary. This boundary stretches for 20 miles as the crow flies in an east-west direction along the lower third reach of the 162-mile-long Patoka River. It includes 30 miles of Patoka River channel, 19 miles of cut-off river oxbows, three miles of the South Fork Patoka River, and 12,700 acres of existing bottomland wetland habitat. Shaped by the last retreating glacier 10,000 years ago, the Patoka River meanders through the sand, gravel, and silt deposits from the glacial outwash.
Lying within the Southern Bottomlands and Southwestern Lowlands Natural Regions, the principle natural habitat in the Patoka River Refuge is bottomland forested wetland. These wetlands provide some of the most productive wood duck nesting and brood-rearing habitat in the State. They also support several nesting colonies of great blue herons. A few select areas of old growth forest maintain a healthy population of nesting cerulean warblers. These and other species of neotropical migratory songbirds thrive in this rich ecosystem which lies within the historically important north-south flyway of the Wabash River Basin.
Over 380 species of wildlife, including nesting bald eagles, the Federally endangered Indiana bat and the threatened northern copperbelly watersnake reside upon the Refuge. At least 20 plant species and 63 animal species considered as threatened, endangered or of special concern by the State of Indiana live within this river valley.
Two outlying wildlife management areas (WMAs) are also managed out of the Patoka River Refuge headquarters. The 463-acre Cane Ridge WMA lies 24 miles to the west of Oakland City. This Wabash River bottoms property lies off the southwest corner of the 3,000-acre Gibson Lake. The 219-acre White River Bottoms WMA lies nine miles to the north of Oakland City, just to the northwest of Petersburg on the south side of the White River.
The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.
For more information, visit the Refuge website at: www.fws.gov/refuge/patoka_river/