Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge now open near Madison, Indiana
Old Timbers Lake at Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge offers fishing as well as photo opportunities. A photography blind has been constructed for visitor use at Big Tree Point (Big Oak)
Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Indiana recently opened to public use. It’s an old military test ground facility now benefiting wildlife.
For the public, Big Oaks offers hunting, fishing, bird watching and more. An area in the northeast section of the refuge is available for public day use, and additional acreage around the facility is open during hunting seasons.
Located about six miles north of Madison, IN, (and just across the Ohio River from Milton, KY) the new refuge opened for public use this spring with the availability of fishing at Old Timbers Lake, wildflower photography, morel mushroom hunting, and turkey hunting.
Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 50,000 acres in three counties (Jefferson, Jennings, and Ripley) and overlays that portion of the former Jefferson Proving Ground that lies north of the historic firing line where munitions were once tested.
The Indiana Air National Guard operates an air-to-ground bombing range on the remaining 1,033 acres of the former proving ground north of the firing line and this property is surrounded by but not designated as part of the refuge.
Jefferson Proving Ground was established by the Army in 1940 as an ordnance testing installation and closed in 1995. Beginning in 1996, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service managed the wildlife resources of the proving ground.
Big Oaks Refuge was established in June 2000 as an “overlay” national wildlife refuge through a 25-year real estate permit from the U.S. Army. As an overlay refuge, the Army retains ownership and the Fish and Wildlife Service manages the property as Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge.
Upcoming are special events like Outdoor Women at Big Oaks (June 8, reservation required), Take a Kid Fishing Day (July 20), annual Butterfly Survey (August 3) and refuge tours.
Tours of the refuge can be arranged by calling the refuge office two weeks in advance for a special group tour. Call the Muscatatuck NWR office (812-522-4352 ext 12) for tour or other refuge information, or check out the refuge website: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/big_oaks
Recreational fishing is allowed in the 165-acre Old Timbers Lake from April through November on Mondays, Fridays, and the second and fourth Saturdays. There is a 30 boat limit on the lake. (Only electric trolling motors permitted.) The lakes gets its name from the standing timber left in the impoundment.
A trail and a photo blind are ready for wildlife photographers and nature lovers at Big Tree Point at Old Timbers Lake. Off trail hiking is also allowed in the northeast portion of the refuge known as the public use area.
Since the refuge is part of an old military test facility, all refuge visitors must view the safety briefing once per calendar year, and sign an acknowledgment of danger form.
A daily pass to the refuge costs $3, an annual pass is $15, and hunt permits are $15. Holders of an interagency Access/Senior Pass would be charged a reduced rate. For information about how to obtain an Access/Senior Pass call the refuge office.
Big Oaks has one of the largest contiguous forest blocks in the southeastern part of Indiana as well as one of the largest grassland complexes in the state, both of which provide excellent wildlife viewing opportunities to refuge visitors.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats.
The Service manages the 150 million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses nearly 555 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations.