Visitors gaze in awe as the pristine white beauties with black-tipped wings glide like graceful ballerinas into the wetland 90 miles northwest of Kansas City. Some 400,000 waterfowl, plus Canada geese, stop each fall at this Missouri River floodplain on the way from the northern wilds to the Gulf.
Visitors on sunny October weekends bike or drive the 10-mile road that winds through the refuge's 7,350 acres of forests turning gold, and wide-open burnished fields. The route passes six large pools often covered by snow geese at midday. Along the way, you might spot deer traipsing into the woods.
On those same weekends, interpreters at the visitors center conduct nature programs on topics that range from snow geese flyways to monarch butterflies. Leaves crunch under your feet on guided walks along two miles of hiking trails.
Most visitors stay in St. Joseph about 35 miles southeast. This historic Missouri River town has 10 museums, including the stables where the celebrated Pony Express began, and Jesse James' last home.