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Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge

Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge is a important piece of land conservation in southern Indiana. It is a property that has received a new lease on life! 

Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 50,000 acres in 3 counties (Jefferson, Jennings, and Ripley) and overlays that portion of the former Jefferson Proving Ground that lies north of the historic firing line where munitions were once tested.


The Indiana Air National Guard operates an air-to-ground bombing range on the remaining 1,033 acres of the former proving ground north of the firing line and this property is surrounded by but not designated as part of the refuge. The Jefferson Proving Ground was established by the Army in 1940 as an ordnance testing installation and closed in 1995.


Beginning in 1996, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service managed the wildlife resources of the proving ground. Big Oaks Refuge was established in June 2000 as an “overlay” national wildlife refuge through a 25-year real estate permit from the U.S. Army. As an overlay refuge, the Army retains ownership and the Fish and Wildlife Service manages the property as Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge.  

This refuge provides enjoyment for the public and the community in addition to providing very important habitat and biodiversity!

Please visit the refuge website to learn more about events and projects!

Photograph by USFWS


Big Oaks Natural Wildlife Refuge contains exceptional habitat diversity which supports and enhances not only the many species contained therein, but provides rich opportunities for human enjoyment and appreciation of nature's wonders. The "Big Six" uses described elsewhere on this website are enhanced by this diversity: 

  • Lakes and Streams

  • Over 6,000 acres of wetlands

  • Hardwood Forest

  • Successional Forest and Scrublands

  • Open Grassland and Savanna

  • Caves

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