Pee Dee Natural Wildlife Refuge is home to various habitats

The Refuge floods the growing crops to provide food for wintering waterfowl.
The Refuge floods the growing crops to provide food for wintering waterfowl. –
The new Refuge office was completed in 2017.
The new Refuge office was completed in 2017. –

The Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1963 as a waterfowl sanctuary, in large part thanks to the large herd of James Bay Canada Geese that wintered here. –

WADESBORO – The 8,500 acres that make up the Pee Dee Wildlife Sanctuary are home to some of the most diverse habitats in all of North Carolina. It is located in the counties of Anson and Richmond and in the Triassic basin of lower Piedmont. The refuge is part of the National Wildlife System, which is a network of land dedicated to wildlife. Sanctuaries like Pee Dee provide habitat for over 280 endangered and threatened species.

In the Pee Dee Natural Wildlife Refuge, there are pine forests similar to what one would find in the Sandhills. There are outcrops and hills that resemble the foothills. The Pee Dee River, named after the Pee Dee Indian tribe, flows through the refuge and extends into South Carolina. Bellow Falls can be found in the Rockingham portion of the refuge on the east side.

In January, waterfowl can be found concentrated in refuge ponds, lakes and reservoirs across the refuge. You might even spot Canadian geese in a field or see a bald eagle hovering in the sky. In February, waterfowl begin to migrate north as white-tailed deer begin to lose their antlers and ducks search for places to build their nests.

The refuge was created in 1963 in the wake of Gaddy’s Wild Goose Refuge in Ansonville. The Wild Goose Refuge began in the fall of 1934 when Lockhart Gaddy, a former goose hunter, changed his mind and used his four live decoys to attract geese to his pond. It is estimated that 10,000 Canadian geese and 1,000 ducks would spend the winter at Gaddy’s in the 1950s. They closed to the public in 1975 after the death of Mr. and Mrs. Gaddy.

The 1960s saw a decline in the number of waterfowl in the Anson and Richmond County areas of North Carolina. However, the land next to the Pee Dee River and Brown Creek has proven to be excellent habitat for geese and ducks. The Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge opened in October 1963 with support from local and state governments.

“One of the reasons they set up the office here is that you have a meadow, a deciduous swamp, a freshwater swamp and a pine forest that all come together in one place,” said Greg Walmsley. , director of the shelter. Walmsley has worked for the Fish and Wildlife Service for 21 years and was deputy director of the refuge from 2002 to fall 2019.

A lot of forest management work was done while Walmsley was at the refuge. In some cases, this required replanting trees, in others, thinning the trees. “I have seen some great improvements on our roads and our public use facilities. The road was paved in 2010. In 2017 we got this nice new office, ”Walmsley said.

The refuge is a popular destination for hunters. “Hunting in this area is a popular family pastime. Being close to Charlotte, we receive a lot of people who come to the shelter here or who rent land. Having a beautiful rural county so close to an urban center makes it easy for people to access, ”said Walmsley.

Fishing is also popular. “We have about five ponds and a few places where you can access the Pee Dee River and Brown Creek which are also very popular. The fishing season runs from March 15 to October 15. Sullivan Pond here and all of the waters in the Marsh area are open year round, ”Walmsley said.

Hunters and fishermen aren’t the only visitors to the park: “We get a lot of bird watchers and hikers. In the spring, we work with the local 4-H program from the Anson County Extension Office. They bring out second and third grade classes, ”Walmsley said.

Le Refuge also participates in cooperative agriculture. “So basically we have several hundred acres that we farm, but we don’t do the farming ourselves,” says Walmsley, who added, “We have local farmers doing the work under an agreement that they pay us in the form of harvest shares.

Many of these cultivated fields are along the river. Farmers abandon crops and the land is flooded for ducks and geese. “We plant a little ourselves, but we don’t do much,” Walmsley said.

“One of the things I love about my job is that every day is different. One day I might clean the toilet, another I might be on a tractor, then another I might teach a class of 4-H students. I like the diversity of the work. Different tasks that make it interesting, ”Walmsley said.

The next time you’re free, get off at the Pee Dee Natural Wildlife Refuge. Take in the views. Breathe in the fresh air. Maybe even bring a fishing rod and be sure to stop by and visit Greg Walmsley. He would be glad to have you.

The Refuge floods growing crops to provide food for overwintering waterfowl.

The new Refuge office was completed in 2017.

The Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1963 as a waterfowl sanctuary, in large part thanks to the large herd of James Bay Canada Geese that wintered here.

Contact Charles Wood at cwood@ansonrecord.com or 704-994-5471.


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Betty T. Simpson

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