Capture the beauty of the refuge



The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, which is one of the biggest sections of floodplain habitat in the contiguous U.S. and features soaring bluffs and a wide river valley, is highly active during winter. While visiting, one may see deer tracks and marks left on the ice by sliding otters, as well as hundreds of bald eagles eager to spy their next tasty meal in the river. The abundant life of the refuge may be remembered after visiting through pictures taken as part of a photo contest for amateur photographers now being held on the refuge with support from the Friends of the Refuge Headwaters.

Until March 13, photos in the categories “Scenic Views of the Refuge,” “Wildlife and Plants of the Refuge” and “Connecting People with Nature on the Refuge” will be accepted. Photos taken by those 16 and under will also be accepted in the “Young Nature Photographers” category.

Only amateur photos taken of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge or Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge in winter will be accepted. Photos that have been submitted to refuge photo contests before will not be accepted.

This photo contest is the first to focus on winter, Winona District Manager for the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge Mary Stefanski said. Inspiring people to get outdoors and take photos during winter, when cabin fever might be bringing people down was part of the motivation for the seasonal contest.

The three criteria of capturing the spirit of the refuge, technical quality and intrinsic beauty will be used to judge the photos. Judging will take place prior to April 1. 

In each category, the first-place winner will receive $30, the second-place winner will receive $20 and the third-place winner will receive $15. 

The winning photos will be part of a traveling photo display that may appear at the Winona County History Center and the Frozen River Film Festival, among other places and events, Stefanski said. They’ll also appear on the refuge and Friends of the Refuge’s social media pages.

Three photos may be submitted per person for each category. Each must be the original work of the entrant and may not be altered other than cropping, dodging, burning, spotting, sharpening, contrast, and slight color adjustments. Submitted photos should be printed as 8-inch by 10-inch pieces of paper, and with the use of a black or a white mat, matted to 11-inch by 14-inch. Frames are not allowed. 

Each submitted photo should include a completed entry form attached to its back, as well as a title. Identifying information should not be included on the front of photos. If entry is a digital photo, entrants should provide a 300 dpi digital.jpg file on a CD along with the entry photo, or email the .jpg file (6 MB or less) to


Release forms must be completed for any photos containing people.

Entries should be submitted by 4 p.m. on March 13. Photos may be dropped off at the Winona District Office or mailed to Jennifer Froehly, 51 East Fourth Street, room 200, Winona. 

After judging and exhibitions have occurred, photos may be picked up at 51 East Fourth Street. Photos will not automatically be returned. 

The refuge, which was founded in 1924 to help protect fish, wildlife and plants, spreads along the Mississippi in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. The Friends of the Refuge Headwaters support the work of the refuge, Stefanski said. The refuge covers over 240,000 acres along 261 river miles. 

More information about the photo contest and forms needed to submit entries to the contest may be found at 


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