The refuge is located in four states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois along the Mississippi River. The Refuge was established in in 1924 as a refuge for fish, wildlife and plants and a breeding place for migratory birds. The refuge encompasses one of the largest blocks of floodplain habitat in the lower 48 states. Bordered by steep wooded bluffs that rise 100 to 600 feet above the river valley, the Mississippi River corridor and refuge offer scenic beauty and productive fish and wildlife habitat unmatched in the heart of America. The refuge covers just over 240,000 acres and extends 261 river miles from north to south at the confluence of the Chippewa River in Wisconsin to near Rock Island, Illinois. The refuge is designated as a Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar) and a Globally Important Bird Area.
For many people, fall is not complete without viewing the melodious tundra swans. Swans begin arriving daily in mid-October, and building to a peak population by mid-November. Migrating day and night, their woo-hoo, woo-hoo call can be heard across the river.