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Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center is located 2 miles east of Decatur (between Decatur and Priceville) on Hwy 67 about 2 miles from I-65. It is open 9-4 each day and is free.
What to expect:
Drive back to the visitor center and park, stop at the visitor center first and wander through the small but good collection of mounted birds and local water animals. Ask to see the movie-a 10-15 minute overview on Wheeler. Pick up a brochure and map and then hit the trail to the Observation Building. They have added a nice little feature along this trail in the form of a small wildflower garden. The Observation Building is deafening in the winter-the honks and quacks of all the waterfowl can be overwhelming! There will literally be acres of birds starting just a few feet away. In the summer, you can watch turtles, frogs and the occasional roaming duck from the huge glass windows.
Back at the visitor center, take the trail through the cypress trees and around the short loop and back to the Visitor Center lot. The entire visit will take about 2 hours, provided you take your time and enjoy. For school-aged kids, Wheeler offers a free Junior Ranger Program that is really good. It takes about an hour to complete and at the end, kids get a certificate and a badge.
Boardwalk through the Cypress trees
Sandhill Cranes in December
Duck pond from the observation building
Inside the Visitor Center
Ducks start arriving in late Fall
River Gulls over the backwaters
Observation Tower off 565 between Decatur and Huntsville
Inside the Observation Building