Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge is in the lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley between Greenville and Vicksburg and about five miles east of the Mississippi River. The elevation ranges from 90 to 113 feet above sea level. Topography is nearly flat to gently undulating with all major features being derived from alluvial deposits and meandering of the Mississippi River. Soils range from sandy loam on the ridges or natural levee areas, to heavy gumbo clays in the slack water areas. Most cultivated fields are classed as prime agricultural land which is currently 3,600 acres. The main wetland feature of the refuge is Swan Lake, a 4,000-acre oxbow, now largely forested with Cypress, Buttonbush, Willow, Planer Tree and Swamp Privet. In addition, there are more than 4,000 acres of bottomland hardwood, most of which is shallowly flooded in the winter. Approximately 1,500 acres have been reforested, mostly on higher sites which do not flood. Grasslands on archaeological sites, permanent wildlife openings, and spoil banks make up about 350 acres. Moist-soil areas comprise more than 600 acres, including 240 acres of former commercial catfish ponds, known as the Cox Ponds, which have been converted to moist-soil and are managed for waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds and other water birds. Being located in the neck of a major flyway, many migrants funnel through this area. The refuge bird list contains more than 250 species.
Swan Lake supports a multi-species heronry (eight to nine species) of more than 1,300 pairs of nesting waterbirds. This heronry has been in existence for many years and is accessible only by small boat or canoe, so the colony is well protected from human disturbance. This waterbird colony is one of only a few sites in the state that supports nesting Double-crested Cormorants.
In late summer and fall the Cox Ponds (240 acres) are managed to provide critical stopover habitat for fall migrating shorebirds. An average of 1,000 shorebirds uses these ponds on a daily basis to rest and refuel during their fall migration. Twenty species of shorebirds have been documented at the ponds. Also, during this same season a wide variety of wading birds (15 species) undergoing post-breeding dispersal are attracted to the food rich ponds in large numbers.
In winter the Cox Ponds are managed for wintering waterfowl (18 to 20 species of ducks and geese). The winter duck population approaches approximately 100,000 birds that utilize the ponds and other suitable habitat on the refuge. Ducks include mostly Mallards, Gadwall, and Green-winged Teal. Other species present include: Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck, Canvasback, Redhead, scaup, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, and Hooded Merganser. Four species of geese, mostly Snow Geese, utilize various sites on the refuge and regularly number 150,000 annually. The other species of geese commonly seen on the refuge are: Greater White-fronted Geese, Canada Geese, and Ross?s.
The refuge is managed for migratory birds, primarily waterfowl. Emphasis has also been placed on shorebird management and several sites support wading bird rookeries. Two observation platforms overlooking wetlands have recently been completed. Several Paleo-Indian sites exist including ceremonial mounds. Archery deer hunting is extremely popular and receives much public support. Other wildlife oriented public use is appreciated by the public.