top of page

The Jefferson Proving Grounds


Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge

Jefferson Proving Ground, Madison, Indiana is quiet now, though its history has been particularly violent in time past. The 55,265 acre parcel of land located in Southern Indiana has been smashed flat by a glacier, served as a hunting ground for the Shawnee, provided homes and sustenance for European Immigrants, served as a bombing range for the U. S. Army, and provided jobs for thousands of Madisonians, Northern Kentuckians, and Southeastern Hoosiers for fifty years.

For now and hopefully forever, the guns have fallen silent except for the occasional weekend invasion by the Air National Guard pilots that sharpen their bombing skills by dropping practice bombs and blasting away with high speed cannons. Now mostly peaceful, the Fish and Wildlife service maintains Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge on the land laced with unexploded ordnance (UXO).

A local business man, Dean Ford, who grew up on a farm in DuPont, now is the owner of the almost 4,000 acres south of the firing line, land deemed salvageable enough for the government to sell.

The remainder of the Jefferson Proving Ground land has become the Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge was established in 2000, and its 50,00 acres occupy portions of Jefferson, Jennings, and Ripley counties in southeastern Indiana.The Refuge was created as an "overlay refuge" under a joint agreement with the U.S. Army and Air Force. The Army owns the land of the closed Jefferson Proving Ground, but on this land, Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge provides habitat for over 120 bird species and 46 state rare and endangered plant species, Because of its value to migratory birds Big Oaks has been designated as a Globally Important Bird Area. Refuge habitat includes large expanses of grassland, successional shrublands, and forest.

This website is dedicated to all the folks, Native American, Pioneer, and Government Employees, and civilians who have, at various times, occupied and contributed to what has now become Big Oaks Wildlife Refuge.

bottom of page