During the Friends Annual Meeting in February, many of the attendees visited nearby Vista for an informative, riverfront presentation about the property, which will eventually become part of the Refuge.
Bender and Associates Architects was chosen to do a historical and architectural survey of the Vista Property, with the work being fully funded by a Florida Division of Historical Resources grant. Although there have been some delays due to virus restrictions, the work has progressed and is about 90 percent complete.
The Friends Board looks forward to receiving the final report and sharing it with the Friends membership. Our grant administrator, Belinda Nettles, is now working with Bender Associates on submitting an application for a second Division of Historical Resources grant to begin the next stage of the project which will involve initial construction work to ensure the structural integrity and weather resistance of the historic structures on the site.
While outdoor sites remain open at the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges during the current coronavirus pandemic, we urge visitors to follow CDC guidelines.
Maintain adequate social distancing, avoid overcrowding and exercise good hygiene.
If a parking lot is full when you visit, please do not stop. Pay strict attention to social distancing guidance and do not crowd overlooks, piers, or viewing areas by compromising this guidance.
We understand that the outdoors can help relieve stress, but these guidelines must be followed for our public health and safety. For now, the refuge visitor center and other public facilities are closed and most scheduled events have been postponed. For more information please visit our webpage, FWS Coronavirus Response.
The Refuges take their responsibility very seriously in protecting the public safety and welfare. We will be forced to close our public outdoor areas if visitors will not police their own social distancing precautions. Please respect the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control.
Any questions, call/text Andrew Gude at 703.622.3896.
The Refuges are open! Please adhere to CDC, State of Florida, and local directives on this pandemic event. Our lands, waters, trails, roads, fishing, turkey hunt season, boardwalks, fishing piers, viewing areas, boat launches, etc. are there for you to safely and responsibly enjoy. As long as we have cleaning supplies, we will maintain the public restrooms. We are all eager to stay healthy and keep others healthy as well.
The Refuge is big enough that we can keep a safe distance from each other and enjoy nature's beauty in Spring. The trails and roads are here for you. Come enjoy fishing, see the butterflies and the birds, put your boat in at McCormick Creek, Shellmound, or Shired Island launches. Drive the Nature Drive. Walk down the River Trail to the gazebo and sing a verse of Way Down Upon the Suwannee River.
We will miss visiting with you at headquarters; we have had to close the headquarters building and rest room because of Coronavirus precautions. But please, come on out and enjoy the nature-based recreation that the Refuge is known for.
Stay well! ~ Andrew (call or text 703.622.3896).
This is prime time for watching Spring butterflies get their start on the beautiful new flowers popping up all over the refuge. The Juniper hairstreaks are flying and the swallowtails are visiting the many gigantic purple thistle blooms that are showing up along the roadsides.
Board member John Thalacker installed several new signs along the River Trail to help with plant identification. Next in the ongoing work to keep the trail visitor friendly for all will be flattening or covering about 40 spots along the path to the Tram Trail from the east end of the parking area, in order to make the path more accessible for wheelchair users.
On March 14, board member Debbie Jordan staffed a Friends of Refuges table at the Suwannee Arts and Nature Festival. Though not as many came as in former years, many local folks attended. Others came from Gainesville to participate in a festival kayaking expedition led by Lars Anderson. Musicians, including Friends board member Matt Chatowsky, provided live entertainment.
Offering brochures about the Refuge, membership applications and Swallow-tailed Kite T-shirts, we raised almost $200 for the Swallow-tailed Kite Migration Fund and recruited nine new and renewing members.
According to Debbie, the most fun part of the day was having a chance to tell people about the incredible 10,000-mile migration of Swallow-tailed Kites. The Friends partnered with National Audubon to outfit and track Suwannee, “our” Swallow-tailed Kite for two years. Through the tracking research, we are learning first-hand where the kites go when they leave our area . . . all the way down to Mato Grosso, Brazil!
To donate to this cause, you may mail a check to
Friends of Refuges, P.O. Box 532, Cedar Key, FL 32625
Please notate Suwannee’s Migration Fund.
The weather was perfect and the crowd was large for the 2020 Annual Meeting. From the Friends' perspective, President John McPherson provided an overview of the year's actions and a preview of what is planned for the coming year. Refuge Manager Andrew Gude did the same from the refuge perspective.
The membership elected new officers and directors. Their photos and short bios are available on the About Us - The Board tab. We also ratified changes to the Bylaws to bring them up to date. They are available on the Records Archives - Bylaws tab.
The excellent featured presentation was by Dr. Ken Meyer of the Avian Research and Conservation Institute in Gainesville, FL. He talked about their tracking studies and conservation issues of Swallow-tailed Kites. ARCI has been studying Swallow-tailed Kites since 1988, discovering their migration routes and winter range and all aspects of needs and threats along the way.
The Friends sponsored the tagging of a Kite, named Suwannee, who spends part of his year on the Refuge. At the meeting, T-shirts were available to purchase to support our Suwannee-tracking project, and donations were also accepted, reaching more than $600 during the meeting. The shirts are available at the town of Suwannee Art Festival on March 14 and at the Welcome Desk in the headquarters at the refuge. This article includes an interactive map that tracks Suwannee on his migration. Scroll down in the article to find the map. Use the dot in the caption to "fly" him from the Refuge to Brazil and as far back as he is so far.
After lunch, catered by Ken and Rose McCain, everyone walked to Vista to see the property that will eventually be added to the Refuge. It is gorgeous Suwannee riverfront acreage with several buildings. With grant support, Friends is currently having an architectural firm evaluate the historical, cultural, and structural characteristics of the property for planning purposes.
Refuge Manager Andrew Gude spent the week of February 9 to 14 at the National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia learning more about Land Conservation Easements .
Discussion topics included how to:
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it into law in May 2019. He says it “is intended to re-vitalize rural communities, encourage job creation and provide regional connectivity while leveraging technology, enhancing the quality of life and public safety, and protecting the environment and natural resources.”
If this highway project proceeds, the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge is not large enough or strong enough to protect the wildlife, or us, against the direct and indirect degradation that M-CORES would bring to the environment and natural resources that the Governor says he wants to enhance.
The Refuge is open daily from dawn to dusk.
Due to coronavirus concerns, the headquarters building is closed to visitors. However, staff are working as usual and the Refuge is open for appropriate recreational uses including boating, hiking, fishing, biking, and birding.
The Refuge Manager Andrew Gude can be reached by text or phone at 703.622.3896.
Hunting Information from the Refuge Manager
The print version of the 2019-2020 Hunt Regulations Brochure is now available at Refuge headquarters. For a digital version,
click on the photo below.
For Information about getting a Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge Hunt Permit and a Deer Bag Report, Click Here
To Apply for a Permit to Hunt on the Lower Suwannee Refuge,
For a copy of the Deer Harvest Log, Click Here
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