Winging It at Squaw Creek Refuge Near Mound City, Missouri
Life in the landlocked heartland is far more diverse and exciting than bi-coastal types like to think. Take this remote northeast corner of Missouri. Exotic visitors from far-off places literally flock here. As the fertile floodplain of the Missouri River bottom was drained and planted with crops in the 1930s, FDR had the foresight to protect this little patch of wetlands. The Squaw Creek Wildlife Refuge's location along the Central Flyway makes it a wildly popular fall stopover for shorebirds like ibis, sandpipers, pelicans, and cormorants. But the avian cacophony reaches its critical mass—a mind-boggling 400,000 snow geese and 100,000 ducks—in October and November, making this peaceful, unassuming spot, for a short time, one of the most densely populated bird cities in the country. Once they move on, the bald eagles sweep in—as many as 400 have been sighted feeding here in the winter. Platforms, dikes, and towers make it easy to surround yourself with water, native prairie grasslands, and over 300 species of birds.