After being closed for more than two months due to heavy rains and flooding in May and June, Hagerman Wildlife Refuge is preparing to open its doors, at least partially, later this week. Monday officials with the refuge announced plans to open the Visitor’s Center to the public on Friday.

After being closed for more than two months due to heavy rains and flooding in May and June, Hagerman Wildlife Refuge is preparing to open its doors, at least partially, later this week. Monday officials with the refuge announced plans to open the Visitor’s Center to the public on Friday.


"Just yesterday the waters receded enough from the visitor’s center driveway to where we were able to get in there and do road rehab to where it is suitable enough for visitors," Refuge Manager Kathy Whaley said on Tuesday.


While the reopening of the center is good news for those looking to enjoy the great outdoors, Whaley said many of the trails and paths are still underwater. Despite the high waters that rose above the trees in parts of the refuge, the Visitor’s Center remained dry throughout the ordeal, Whaley said.


"We are very thankful for that," she said. "When we built the facility in 2011, we put it at an elevation of about 650 to make certain to the best of our ability, it would never be flooded."


When the waters finally crested, following nearly two months of near-constant rain, nearly 80 percent of the 11,000-acre refuge was underwater, Whaley said. That set work in the refuge back as workers were not able to do normal maintenance including work on trails, roads, and the plowing and planting of fields.


"It impacted everything," she said. "We haven’t been able to do much of anything."


As the waters continue to recede, Whaley worries that officials may start to see even greater damage beyond a washed out trail. While most species of trees are able to remain underwater for nearly 30 days, she said she fears the nearly three months of rain will result in many dead trees throughout the refuge. Additionally, Whaley said she is concerned that invasive species, including Johnson Grass, may start to grow.


Despite these concerns, Whaley said, she is confident that the wildlife is safe. As the waters rose, most of the fauna likely moved to higher ground on neighboring land, Whaley said. In the coming weeks, she said, officials will be conducting an annual survey of the deer population to determine if there have been any major changes throughout the refuge.


While activity is limited at the refuge until the waters recede enough for workers to survey the damage, Whaley said the Visitor’s Center will still be conducting some activities. On Saturday, the center will be holding its Youth FIRST nature program for children. On Aug. 8, the center will also hold a program on wading birds.