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Iroquois NWR / Tonawanda and Oak Orchard WMA
Description: Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is flanked by the Tonawanda and Oak Orchard wildlife management areas, managed by New York State. Together, these three properties comprise a refuge complex of roughly 19,000 acres of freshwater marsh, bottomland hardwood swamp, forest and grassland.

Known locally as the Alabama Swamps, these wetlands south of Lake Ontario formed in poorly drained areas as glacial Lake Tonawanda receded thousands of years ago. Dikes and other water-level control structures have been added to keep water levels up. Wetlands are host to tens of thousands of migratory birds, mostly waterfowl and shorebirds, as they fly to their breeding grounds each spring and their wintering grounds each fall.

The diverse wetland and upland habitats support 42 recorded species of resident mammals. The area also provides excellent habitat for several warmwater fish species, as well as many types of reptiles and amphibians.

Wildlife to Watch: More than 100,000 waterfowl stop on their migration northward each spring. Many common species of ducks stop to rest, feed and perhaps nest here. Less common waterfowl species, including ruddy ducks, tundra swans, cackling geese, greater white-fronted geese and both color phases of snow geese, are found in limited numbers every year. Occasionally, unusual species such as cinnamon teal and Eurasian wigeon are sighted. Sightings of migrating shorebirds, such as yellowlegs, dowitchers, sandpipers and killdeer, peak in May and again in July and August. Marshbirds, including bitterns, rails, pied-billed grebes, and the state-endangered black tern stay to nest on the areas. Upland birds include ring-necked pheasant, ruffed grouse, American woodcock and snipe.

White-tailed deer, muskrats, red and gray foxes, eastern cottontails, eastern gray squirrels and woodchucks are the most commonly seen mammals, though coyotes, beavers, mink, raccoons, Virginia opossums and northern river otters have also been reported.

The most familiar reptiles are painted and snapping turtles. Common garter and northern water snakes may show themselves on sunny days. Less commonly seen are northern brown, northern redbelly, smooth green, eastern milk and black rat snakes. None are venemous.

As temperatures rise in spring, eastern American toads and many species of frogs create a chorus of song as they try to attract mates. Blue-spotted and Jefferson salamanders are there but seldom seen, coming out only in the evenings to hunt for insects along the forest floor.

Warmwater fish species, including northern pike, black crappie, bullhead, carp, sunfish and yellow perch can be seen in ponds and pools, as well as in Oak Orchard Creek.

Special Tips: The Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge visitors center is open Monday –Friday 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. year-round, except holidays. In spring and fall, the refuge is also open on weekends 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Access to the refuge is limited during breeding/nesting season, March 1 to July 15. Flyway Nature Store and restrooms are available. There are no restrooms at either Tonawanda or Oak Orchard. A picnic pavilion is available at Oak Orchard and open daily from sunrise to sunset.

Iroquois: 585-948-5445, 1101 Casey Rd., Basom, NY 14013,


Oak Orchard and Tonawanda: 585-948-5182,


Other Activities: The refuge has a visitor contact station and four nature trails. The Swallow Hollow Nature Trail has an elevated boardwalk along half its length, with accessible ramps and packed gravel sections with bumpers. The Cayuga Marsh Overlook has an observation deck with an accessible ramp. Two photo blinds are available by request only.

Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area has photo blinds, an observation tower and access for non-motorized boating.

Much of the wildlife habitat in the Tonawanda Wildlife Management Area can be easily viewed from the parking lots that overlook the marsh wetlands. On Oak Orchard and Tonawanda WMAs, walking on the dikes, administrative trails and laneways is permitted.

Ownership: Iroquois (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service); Oak Orchard and Tonawanda (NYS Department of Environmental Conservation) 
Size: Iroquois: 10,828 acres; Oak Orchard: 2,500 acres; Tonawanda 5,600 acres 
Closest Town: Alabama and Medina

ParkingFishingHikingVisitor CenterSmall Boats

Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing:

Ring-necked Duck, Photo by Gerry Lemmo
Please see map link below

Driving Directions:
To Iroquois, take I-90 (the Thruway) to Exit 48-A (Medina/ Pembroke). Turn left (north) onto Rte. 77 towards Medina and Indian Falls. Go approximately 8 miles. At the flashing traffic light in Alabama, go straight for 1 more mile. Turn left onto Casey Rd. The refuge headquarters/visitor contact station is 1 mile on the right.

To Oak Orchard, turn left out of Iroquois parking lot. Turn right onto NY-63/S. Gravel Rd. Turn left at the traffic light, Co. Rte. 12/ Lockport/Lewiston Rd. After approximately 5 miles, turn left onto Albion Rd. The main overlook and parking lot is located near 5992 Albion Rd. in Oakfield.

To Tonawanda, turn right out of the Iroquois parking lot. Turn right onto Co. Rte. 12/State Rte. 77/Lewiston Rd. The main overlook and parking lot is on State Rte. 77, about 1 mile west of Meadeville Rd.

Map Link

Iroquois NWR / Tonawanda and Oak Orchard WMA : Wildlife Viewing Area