Wild celebration at St. Catherine Creek

Published 2:41 am Monday, October 4, 2010

Come join the staff and Friends of St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday to celebrate the opening of several new visitor service facilities, the kick-off of National Wildlife Refuge Week, and the start of “Let’s Move Outside — Southwest Mississippi.”

Beginning at 10 a.m., we will cut the ribbon at our office located at 21 Pintail Lane as the official opening of our new office, extension of the Magnolia National Recreation Trail with children’s activities, new kid’s fishing pier and butterfly garden. From that point the real fun begins — activities are planned to keep all ages entertained for hours!

The new 2,400-square-foot office will be open and the winning photos from the 2010 photo contest will be on display. This building provides visitors and staff a much improved point of access to the refuge. Some interpretive features have arrived, others are on their way.

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The 1-mile extension of the Magnolia National Recreation Trail departs from the new office, circles the Hidden Pond, and connects with the existing trail. The Friends of St. Catherine Creek Refuge just installed 14 stations for children to be entertained over a half-mile portion of that extension. Each station is a little different, but they can walk like a duck, jump like a grasshopper, or run like an alligator as part of the Animal Olympics. Those completing the course will receive a certificate acknowledging their accomplishment.

The 200-foot fishing pier provides children with access to the Hidden Pond. Fishing is not open yet but, on Saturday, children will be guided through activities to scoop up frogs, tadpoles and other pond critters at the Discovery Station.

Children will also be able to navigate through the Black Bear Obstacle Course as they learn about the annual cycle of bears.

Visitors should stop to enjoy the latest addition. The Adams County Master Gardeners just completed a beautiful butterfly garden in front of the office. Butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators are enjoying it every day.

Guided canoe trips will be offered into Gilliard Lake beginning at 11:30 and 1. Paddlers will glide through centuries-old cypress trees, among wading birds and alligators. The refuge will provide 20 canoes. This will be a popular event, call for reservations or bring your own canoe or kayak.

The celebration serves as the kickoff to National Wildlife Refuge Week and “Let’s Move Outside — Southwest Mississippi.”

National Wildlife Refuge Week (Oct. 10-16) is an annual event to especially encourage visitors to experience refuges. St. Catherine Creek NWR is part of a system of 522 national wildlife refuges and 27 Wetland Management Districts dedicated to the protection of the nation’s natural resources, but also offers a range of wildlife dependent recreation. Each year about 42 million Americans discover the wonders of nature by visiting a wildlife refuge for fishing, hunting environmental education, wildlife observation, wildlife photography and interpretive activities.

The celebration at the refuge is the first of a day-long series of events in the Natchez area promoting First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaign, “Let’s Move,” and the Department of Interior’s campaign, “Let’s Move Outside.” The southwest Mississippi program is a collaborative effort of the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Mississippi River Trail. The program is designed to demonstrate the area resources that are available, elevate the importance of active lifestyles, and encourage greater participation in outdoor activities to combat obesity and promote a healthy lifestyle.

The St. Catherine Creek NWR office is located at 21 Pintail Lane. To get there from Natchez, head south on U.S. 61 for about 12 miles. Turn right on York Road (Sibley) for 2 miles. Turn left onto Pintail Lane for 0.1 mile. Call 601-442-6696 for information and canoe reservations.

Bob Strader is the refuge manager at St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge.