This wetland area is a 750-acre portion of the Stockton Lake Management Lands (ML), which spans more than 16,000 acres in Cedar, Dade, and Polk counties, and is nestled among the rolling hills of the western Ozarks. Aldrich Refuge, the Polk County piece of Stockton Lake ML, is located on the Little Sac Arm of Stockton Lake.
Mostly shallow-water mudflat, Aldrich Refuge provides ideal habitat for water birds. When Stockton Lake is at its normal water level, more than 500 acres of the refuge is covered in water less than 2 feet deep. Ducks geese pelicans shorebirds such as plovers, avocets, and sandpipers and large wading birds such as egrets and herons inhabit the abundant wetland environment at various times throughout the year.
A constructed wetland on the refuge’s east end offers a viewing blind for bird watching. Waterfowl frequent Aldrich Refuge in mid-winter and during spring migrations from March to mid-April. Shorebirds show up in late summer, early fall and between April and June pelicans in October and April and bald eagles during the winter months.
Aldrich Refuge holds as many opportunities for fishing as it does for birding. Bass, catfish, crappie, sunfish, and white bass abound in Stockton Lake anglers can even bowfish for carp. Hunting prospects include deer, dove, quail, turkey, waterfowl, and small game. As part of Stockton Lake ML, Aldrich Refuge is subject to special regulations the refuge is closed to fishing, hunting, trapping, and boating from Oct. 15 through the end of the South Zone Duck Season. Due to these regulations, hunting at Aldrich Refuge is available only for portions of certain seasons.
Management practices at Aldrich Refuge optimize the area for the wildlife it serves. Managers plant corn, milo, or soybean crops in some of the higher portions to provide high-energy food sources for migrating waterfowl in fall and spring. Disking portions of the refuge when water levels are low helps promote growth of moist-soil plants such as barnyard grass and smartweed, which are important food sources for a variety of birds.
Aldrich Refuge is located at the intersection of Highway 123 and Route T in Polk County. For more information, including an area map and brochure, visit the Web page listed below.
—Rebecca Martin, photo by David Stonner
Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Art Director - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler