• River surrounded by trees
  • Pine flatwoods with deer-tongue blooming
  • Great Egret fledglings
  • Freshwater pond in hardwood swamp
  • Sun setting over former burial ground
  • Creek surround by marshes and palm trees
  • Beach at North Key in florida

Peg Hall’s post with Ann Kamzelski’s photo of the Lower Suwannee NWR in Florida was the winning photo for the December contest.

Friends of Lower Suwannee & Cedar Keys NWRs is lucky to have two quite different refuges to support, under a single management.

The Cedar Keys NWR was established in 1929 to help protect shore birds, which at the time were being taken in huge numbers for their plumage which was highly valued by the millinery business worldwide. The 900-acre refuge, made up of on 13 islands provides breeding grounds for thousands of ibises, egrets, spoonbills, pelicans, herons, and other shore birds.

The Lower Suwannee NWR was established 50 years later in 1979 to protect the water quality of the historic Suwannee River, 20 miles of which bisects the Refuge at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico. The flow of the Suwannee feeds the estuarine waters of the Gulf, habitat for the Gulf sturgeon and feeding grounds for resident and migratory shorebirds, wading birds and waterfowl. The land had been heavily logged before becoming a refuge. The Refuge is working to restore and protect the bottomland hardwood swamps and forests along the Suwannee.

The Lower Suwannee Refuge also includes Shell Mound, an archaeological resource prominent as a civic-ceremonial site from about A.D. 400 to A. D. 650. The location held a burial site aligned with the setting sun on Winter Solstice.

What is our all-volunteer, 22-year-old Friends group doing now?

  • Celebrating Winter and Summer Solstice
  • Conducting Native Plant, Butterfly, and Photo Walks and creating trailside interpretive panels and new guides for visitor favorites such as gravel biking
  • Having outreach booths at local festivals and working to acquire a mobile outreach center to take the story of the Refuges to where the people are
  • Designing unique merchandise for our pandemic-inspired Online Store, with board members fulfilling orders from home
  • Acquiring grants to help restore Vista, a 14-acre former in-holding that the donors, who are members of Friends, turned over to the Refuge at our 2022 Annual Meeting.
  • Providing an extensive website with a blog, bios of Friends board and Refuge staff, a list of Friends members, descriptions of places of interest to visit on the Refuges, guides to seeing the Refuges from your kayak, maps and brochures for many Refuge areas and trails, a primer to butterflies of the Lower Suwannee Refuge, and a link to our widely-distributed and popular email News Brief
  • Participating in CORFA initiatives!

Congratulation Peg and Ann!