National Parks / Natural World

Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge Prairie City

Where is it at?

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Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge
9981 Pacific Street
Prairie City
Tel: 515 994-3400


The refuge is 25 minutes east of Des Moines, just nine miles south of I-80. On Hwy 163, take exit 18 then immediately right. Follow signed along paved entrance.

Where are we going today?

Nature's calling! The Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge is a beautiful place to bring the whole family. Kids especially will love the wild open outdoors, and getting up close to all the amazing wildlife - including bison and elk.

Families can visit any day from dawn right through to dusk. You can drive through 700 acres of enclosed refuge space and witness elk and bison. Start your day off at the Visitor Center, where you can visit the bookstore, and exhibit area, as well and the theater.

Got your hiking boots on? Good! Because there are miles of trails all of which radiate from the Center. From there, you can get that drive on and check out the wildlife! There are also other outdoor activities to keep your family entertained throughout the day.

Biking, birding, mushrooming, and wildlife watching are just some of the other activities that you can enjoy! From white-tailed deer, to fox squirrels and even the Indiana bat - all are some of the wildlife that you might be bale to spot.

Many of the mammal species create cozy burrows on the Refuge - how many burrows can you find? They often can be seen along the gravel roads and around the Visitor Center.

Wood Chucks, foxes, badgers and coyotes also dig burrows around the area but because they live in burrows, you will be lucky to see them - but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try! 

Across the year the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge puts on certain events, so make sure you keep an eye out so you don't miss out! From photography hikes to seasonal activities, they are often fun for the family!

Better make it down soon - the bison are waiting for you! 

Email attraction

How much does it cost?

  • AdultsFree
  • ChildrenFree

When can we go?

Trails and auto tour - dawn to dusk. Visitor Center Mon to Sat 9am - 4pm (Winter hours)

All year round. Visitor Center hours different for summer and winter.

Teachers corner

The NSNWR staff love providing environmental education programs for schools and groups. They have field trips for partner school and non-partner schools. Get in contact!.

I'm Hungry!

Bring your own lunch and enjoy it out on the prairies - it's a beautiful experience and one where you should enjoy lunch out with the bison in your car, or our near the Visitor Center.

Healthy Eating!

Always best to keep healthy snacks and water on hand - you never know when you need that extra energy! .

Any Top Tips?

If you do want to support the national refuge, then you can become a member! .

Doing our bit

The refuge are dedicated to protecting and assisting the refuge, and caring for the wildlife on hand to ensure they have happy lives. .

Need a little extra help?

The tour is driving, so as long as you are able to get in your car you will be fine! .

What people are saying?

  • by

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    i love this place my son has been going thier for 8 mnths now and he loves going all the ladies who work thier are amazing and loving and caring, they call me the minute anything happens from fevers to falls i have never had a problem and they are very flexable my son runs to the daycare provides with smiles and laughs he infact doesnt want to leave i recomend this place to everyone

  • by

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    They had my daughter in urine soaked diapers so long she git a massive staff infection , I will report this to thr state !

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