Oxbow Trail: A pleasant trek to learn about nature
UPPER SOURIS NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE – It’s not lengthy or grueling, but it certainly provides an opportunity for fresh air and exercise. There’s also a chance to see some wildlife while learning a few lessons about nature.
Welcome to the Oxbow Nature Trail. The easily negotiable path is located in the Downstream Recreation Area below Lake Darling Dam. The hard-packed gravel surface makes the trail handicap accessible and there are benches along the way for which to rest and enjoy the scenery.
“It travels around an old river oxbow, thus the name of the trail,” said Duane Anderson, Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge. “Usually there’s some waterfowl and grassland bird species, even some timber dwelling birds. It’s pretty cool actually. When you get on the back side of that oxbow, in the timber, there’s often white-tailed deer in there.”
Rabbits, mink, weasels, beaver, muskrats, turtles and herons are among the frequent visitors to the oxbow and can sometimes be seen by fortunate hikers. The length of the trail is one-half mile, a distance perfectly suited to young children eager to experience a nature hike.
“On the weekends there’s always somebody walking on that trail when you go down there,” said Anderson. “They are curious about it and like to hike and walk. There’s always somebody’s family and children walking it.”
A large interpretive sign greets visitors at the trailhead. Additional interpretive signs are found along the route, generally describing variances in habitat and wildlife. The hard-packed surface of the trail makes for easy walking.
“It’s not extremely long and it is flat. It is accessible for the handicapped,” said Anderson. “It does go through the fishing area as it parallels the river for a certain distance.”
The popular trail was damaged during the 2011 flood. However, thanks to the help of summer Americorp students, the trail has been completely renovated and all flood damage repaired.
One of the interesting sites visible from the hiking trail is the remnants of pens that were long ago used to contain Canada geese. A few poles imbedded in cement that served as supports for fencing can still be found. The geese raised there were part of a captive flock used to introduce Canada geese to Upper Souris NWR.