Welcome to the Stewards of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge Website. We are the “Friends Group” for the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge Savanna District.

Our Mission

Stewards of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge (SUMRR), is a non-profit organization dedicated to: environmental education, creating quality wildlife habitat, and enhancing the public’s understanding  and enjoyment of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.


Our Story

The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, established for fish, wildlife and plants and a breeding place for migratory birds, owes its existence to the avid fisherman, founder and leader of the Izaak Walton League, Will Dilg. By 1922, Dilg had spent nearly two decades fishing and enjoying the Upper Mississippi River. In the summer of 1923, he learned of a plan to drain a large portion of the river backwaters and came up with an ambitious solution to the drainage scheme: turn the entire stretch of river into a federal refuge.

Will Dilg

Will Dilg

Remarkably, one year later, due to Dilg’s determination, Congress passed the Upper Mississippi River Wild Life and Fish Refuge Act on June 7, 1924. The act authorized the acquisition of land for a refuge between Rock Island, Illinois and Wabasha, Minnesota. The Refuge name was changed administratively to the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge in 1983. The 261-mile refuge is the longest, contiguous river refuge in the continental U.S. The refuge begins at the confluence of the Chippewa River near Wabasha, Minnesota, and ends near Princeton, Iowa. The refuge lies within four states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois.

The river was free-flowing until a series of locks and dams were constructed in the 1930’s by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Over half of the lands managed by the refuge are owned by the Corps. Today, nearly 240,000 acres of wooded islands, marshes, and backwaters comprise the Upper Miss Refuge. The refuge provides migratory habitat for a large percentage of the migratory birds in the Mississippi Flyway. Tundra swans and canvasback ducks use the refuge as a resting and feeding area in the spring and fall. From the beginning, the refuge has been a place for visitors to renew themselves. A quiet trip to the backwaters, camping on an island, fishing a favorite spot, and waterfowl hunting are traditional uses that have continued for over eighty years.

Ingersoll Wetlands Learning Center

ingersoll-wetlands-learning-centerIn 2000, the Ingersoll Wetlands Learning Center opened its doors to promote environmental education and the conservation of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Visitors come from many parts of America and foreign countries just to view the Mississippi River and its wildlife. This gives us a great opportunity to share the refuge story and to encourage support for the Refuge System.

Conveniently located within the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, the facility is packed with interesting, hands-on exhibits and provides a dramatic view of the world’s most majestic and celebrated river.

The Center sits on thirty-five acres of sand prairie that is home to the ornate box turtle, prickly pear cactus, and a diversity of other plants and animals. Visitors can walk or bike the Grand Illinois Trail that traverses through the prairie and along Spring Lake. There are many opportunities for photographers to get that special picture of a bald eagle, sandhill crane, trumpeter swan, or the prickly pear cactus.  No matter what your interest, there is something for you to see and do.ingersoll-bros-1

The Center is dedicated to the memory of Gary and David Ingersoll, young residents of Savanna who were stricken with muscular dystrophy. Although confined to wheelchairs most of their young lives, the two overcame day-to-day challenges and attended college, where they demonstrated their mutual interest in natural resource conservation. Tragically, both young men died of the disease before the age of 22. The center was named in their honor and continues to promote their ideals of environmental education and conservation of the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

Hours are 8:00 am – 4:00 pm Monday through Friday. The center is closed on all federal holidays. Starting in mid May through September, the center will be open on Saturdays from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm.

Gift Shop

The Stewards operate a bookstore that is filled with an excellent selection of children’s books, field guides, and unique gifts. If you know one of those “hard to buy for” nature enthusiasts, you’ll find that perfect gift here. Visit our Gift Shop for more information. All proceeds support various refuge programs.

Members receive a 10% discount on all merchandise. Please visit our Membership Page to become a Steward today!