The Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge is a 35,000 acre National Wildlife Refuge located along the Tennessee River near Decatur, Alabama. Named after Major General Joseph Wheeler, it was established to provide a habitat for wintering and migrating birds in the eastern United States.
In 1934, the Tennessee Valley Authority began purchasing land as a bed for and buffer strip for Wheeler Reservoir. By 1936, the Tennessee River was impounded for flood control with the nearby Wheeler Dam providing hydroelectric power. In 1938, the Refuge was established by Executive Order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and became the first National Wildlife Refuge to be overlain on a multi-purpose reservoir. TVA impounded shallow backwater areas of the reservoir to control the mosquito population. By pumping these areas dry in the spring and summer, the mosquito breeding habitat was eliminated. These impounded areas also produced natural waterfowl foods such as wild millet, smartweed, sedges, and other seed bearing grasses that attracted waterfowl when the area was re-flooded in the winter. Wheeler NWR has supported up to 60,000 geese and 100,000 ducks, although recently these levels have declined to approximately 30,000 geese and 60,000 ducks. In addition to migratory birds, the refuge hosts 115 species of fish, 74 species of reptiles and amphibians, 47 species of mammals, and 288 different species of songbirds. Some common mammals include squirrels, raccoons, opossums, rabbits, quail, and deer. Approximately ten endangered species which live on the refuge.