Union Slough National Wildlife Refuge

Quick Facts

Union Slough National Wildlife Refuge


(515) 928-2523

Map Directions

Things To Do


Union Slough National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1938 to provide a refuge and breeding ground for waterfowl and other migratory birds. The actual slough is all that remains of a pre-glacial riverbed, and its name is derived from the connection or "union" of two watersheds: the Blue Earth River of Minnesota and the East Fork of the Des Moines River. The terrain is nearly flat, allowing the flow of the water to be determined by the direction of the wind at times.

The refuge is on the eastern edge of the tallgrass prairie region of the Northern Great Plains an area known for its agriculture. This 3,334-acre refuge surrounded by a sea of corn and soybeans provides vital habitat for a variety of plants and animals dependent upon tallgrass prairie and wetland habitats.

The various types of land on the refuge require a variety of management methods. To provide nesting habitat for waterfowl and other upland species and to slow the effects of runoff and erosion, refuge staff are restoring native grassland species on areas of the refuge once used for agriculture. Mowing and controlled burning are some of the techniques used to control invasive plant species and to restore native species on the refuge.

Water levels are manipulated to approximate the water levels of the slough that existed before the arrival of humans. Through water level management, the refuge can support a healthy system of wetlands. This system of temporary, seasonal, and permanent wetlands is similar to that encountered by the first white settlers to northern Iowa.

Map of Union Slough NWR

Latitude, Longitude: 43.255580, -94.148712



  • Auto/Motorcycle

    The refuge features a 4.5-mile auto tour route that is open on a limited basis. The tour route gives the public an opportunity to view and photograph the refuge and its wildlife.

  • Fishing

    Fishing is available on a limited basis on various parts of the refuge. Contact the refuge headquarters for a copy of the refuge regulations and a map of the areas open to fishing.

  • Hiking

    There is a short overlook trail leading from the headquarters to an observation platform fitted with spotting scopes and interpretive panels. South Unit of the refuge is open to hiking and snowshoeing. Please contact the refuge headquarters for more information.

  • Hunting

    Limited hunting for upland game, waterfowl, and big game is permitted on certain areas of the refuge. Contact the refuge headquarters for current regulations.


Iowa summers are known for heat and humidity, with daytime temperatures often near 90°F and sometimes exceeding 100°F. Spring ushers in the beginning of the severe weather season--thunderstorms and tornadoes are common during the spring and summer months. Average winters in the state have been known to drop well below freezing, even falling below 0°F.



Union Slough Refuge is roughly 2.5 hours southwest of Minneapolis and northwest of Des Moines. From Algona, take Highway 169 north to Bancroft; turn right (east) on county road A-42, and proceed six miles to the office at 1710 360th St. From Interstate 90; take the Blue Earth, MN, exit and follow Rt. 169 south into Iowa. At Lakota, follow P60 south to A42, then west 0.5 miles on A42 to the office.

Phone Numbers


(515) 928-2523