Tucked away on a busy stretch of Old Country Road in Quogue is a pristine and tranquil place to experience the unspoiled beauty of nature on eastern Long Island. It’s the Quogue Wildlife Refuge, a nonprofit, 300-plus-acre nature preserve that’s open to the public 365 days a year, from sunrise to sunset, free of charge. It’s a too-little-known gem of the East End. The Refuge, celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, was founded in 1934 by a group of avid hunters and nature lovers who were concerned about declining numbers of ducks and other waterfowl.

The site of a former ice company contained a pond that was expanded, and to which small islands were added, to provide habitat for various waterfowl. Members of the community donated adjacent land to the Southampton Wildfowl Association, the nonprofit corporation that still governs the Refuge today.

Improvements to the site were gradually made over the years as funds were raised. Today the Quogue Wildlife Refuge has a complex of outdoor enclosures that house owls, hawks, foxes, a bobcat, and other native animals that are unable to live in the wild because they have permanent injuries or were raised as pets and imprinted on humans. There are 7 miles of hiking trails enjoyed by walkers and joggers. In winter the Refuge rents cross-country skis and snowshoes for use on the trails when conditions permit. They saw a lot of use in the winter of 2013-14.

The Charles Banks Belt Nature Center building is home to a variety of turtles, tortoises, fish, snakes, and other reptiles and amphibians, as well as insects. There are four furry chinchillas, too. A variety of educational, informative, and fun programs for kids, families, and adults take place at QWR, in the Nature Center and outdoors. The summer children’s ecology camps and Halloween Spooky Walk are especially popular.

On July 26th the Refuge will hold its 8th Annual Benefit Gala, Wild Night for Wildlife, at a private home in Quogue. This event raises a significant portion of the Refuge’s operating budget; QWR receives no government funding.

To find out more about this undiscovered jewel of the East End of Long Island, visit their website, www.QuogueWildlifeRefuge.org, and follow them on facebook. Better yet, visit them and see for yourself how beautiful this part of the world can be.

Writer, editor and author Anne Halpin has published 17 books on gardening and related subjects and edited many more. She has been living and gardening on the East End of Long Island for 23 years, and has cared for many private gardens here.