Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge

So I definitely realized just now as I was verifying the spelling that I have been calling Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge the wrong name….I’ve been calling it Muskatuck…whoops….anyways….I have learned that I really dislike humidity. Not only does it turn my hair into a frizzy, bushy, hot mess of a beast, it also makes me sweat buckets. Then you throw a zillion bugs into the mix and they stick to any exposed skin like glue because you’re all sweaty which is just gross. My need to hike for the sake of my sanity, however, far out weights my hatred of humidity and bugs sticking to me. There was a little break in the heat this past Wednesday and only a 50% chance of rain so I decided to finally visit Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). It had been on my to be visited list for a while.

Muscatatuck NWR is about a 30 minute drive through the country from my hometown. Driving through the country to go hiking is the perfect combo to me. There is no entrance fee to enter and the park is open every day from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset. Be aware when visiting close to sunset, the gate at the entrance automatically shuts. Next to the entrance gate are 3 information kiosks. Some things I learned were:

  1. There are over 550 wildlife refuges in the United States.
  2. More than 95 million acres are protected.
  3. The Blue Goose logo for National Wildlife Refuges was designed by Jay N. “Ding” Darling when he was the director of the U.S. Biological Survey.

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I stopped at the visitor center even though it was closed (open 8:30-4:30 most days) because the Chestnut Ridge Trail begins from its parking lot. The trail is a quarter mile in length and is wheel chair accessible, except for the “lower boardwalk loop,” a lower extension that loops through a seep spring. I really liked the boardwalk section. A sign at the start of the boardwalk said it was built in 2003 and made of 100% recycled plastic. It was a nice boardwalk, but impossible to walk quietly on it; I’m pretty sure I scared away any wildlife that was within a mile of it.

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Shortly after the visitor center, the asphalt ends and the road is gravel. When doing research, I could not find a list of trails in Muscatatuck NWR and descriptions, so I  just drove around the park, stopping to read signs, and if a trail sounded / looked interesting then I would hike it.

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Richart Lake
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Canadian Geese families at Richart Lake

The second hike I did was Wood Duck Trail. It is a 3/4 mile trail through the woods. The highlight was a couple signs naming the tree they were next to. The low point of the hike was walking face first into the center of a huge spider web and shrieking…

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I walked from the Wood Duck trail-head to Lake Sheryl, just down the road. The lake is very pretty. I walked out on the wooden pier and it made all kinds of racquet and swaying motions. The entire time I was on it taking pictures, I was prepared to attempt a mad dash back to land should the pier give out.

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The third and last trail I hiked was the Hunt-Richart Lake Trail. The highlight of this trail is the Hackman Overlook Structure (I’d call it a gazebo). The views from the overlook great!

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Hackman Overlook Structure

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My expectations were not very high, but I was honestly blown away by Muscatatuck NWR! I will definitely be going back! There’s a ton of wildlife (obviously); a good amount of scenic, short hiking trails; and few people. I highly recommend at least driving through the refuge if you are ever in the area.