The Fourth of July is just around the corner. If you are heading to the Mississippi River for a boating or camping trip, there are few things to know before you go! While most of the refuge land and water is open for public enjoyment, offices and visitor centers will remain closed until further notice.
Fireworks are not allowed on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge due to their disturbance to wildlife and the litter they leave behind. As people enjoy the bright colors and thunderous explosions, it’s easy to overlook the impact to wildlife. The abrupt lights and sounds are often seen as a threat by nesting bald eagles and easily startle great blue herons and other colonial nesting birds.
The shock of fireworks can cause wildlife to flee, ending up in unexpected areas or roadways, flying into buildings and other obstacles, and even abandoning nests, leaving young vulnerable to predators. The threat to wildlife doesn’t stop at startling lights and sounds; litter from firecrackers, bottle rockets and other explosives can be choking hazards for wildlife and may be toxic if ingested.
The refuge includes most islands and beaches on the Mississippi River from Wabasha to Rock Island, Ill. If you are not sure if you will be within the refuge, please check the maps located at https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Upper_Mississippi_River/map.html.
Federal law enforcement officers will be patrolling the refuge looking for fireworks as well as glass bottles, which are also banned on refuge beaches. The fine for glass bottles is $175; $225 for fireworks possession and use. Officers also want to remind people of the importance of wearing their personal floatation devices while on the water. More information on keeping wildlife safe may be found at https://www.fws.gov/midwest/news/IndependenceDay.html.