Refuge Centennial Photo Contest – Call for Entries

The Friends of the Refuge Headwaters (FORH) are encouraging all amateur photographers to get outside and capture the beauty of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge (Refuge) for a Centennial photo contest.

The Refuge, which was established in 1924 through the efforts of Will Dilg, founder of the Izaak Walton League of America, includes much of the lands and waters of the Mississippi River from Wabasha, Minnesota to Rock Island, Illinois. Photos taken on the Refuge will be accept until October 27, 2023. Winning entries will become part of a traveling display at events up-and-down the Mississippi River in 2024.

Photographers may enter a total of three photos in the following categories; Scenic Views of the Refuge, Wildlife and Plants of the Refuge, and Connecting People with Nature on the Refuge. There is a fourth category, Young Nature Photographers, for youth ages 16 and under. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top three winners in each category and a “Best of Show” award will be given to the photo receiving the most public votes at the end of 2024. Prizes will be funded in part by a generous donation from the League of the Ridiculous of La Crosse, Wisconsin.

  • Scenic Views - 1st Place
    An Observation of the Observation Deck by Deedee Nadeau

Photo Contest Rules:

  1. All photos must be taken on-or-of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. Photos not meeting this rule will be disqualified.
  2. The photo contest entry deadline is October 27, 2023.
  3. Each entry must be the original work of the person submitting and no alterations besides cropping, dodging, burning, spotting, sharpening, contrast, and slight color adjustment will be accepted on entries.
  4. Amateur photographers only. (May not possess a professional photographer tax ID number for the sale of photographs).
  5. Entries submitted in previous refuge photo contests will not be accepted.
  6. Photos must be printed 8” x 10” and matted to 11” x 14” using either a black or a white mat. No frames allowed.
  7. You may enter three photos total.
  8. Completed entry forms must be attached to the back of each photo (download pdf). Each entry must include a title for the photo.
  9. In addition to the entry photo, if entry is a digital photo, provide a 300 dpi digital .jpg file on a CD or email the .jpg file (6 MB or less) to [email protected].
  10. Judging will be anonymous, therefore, do not include your name or other identifying information on the front of photo.
  11. Photos will not be automatically returned but may be picked up at the Refuge Office where submitted between February 1 and March 15, 2024. Winning entries will be returned in early 2025.


  • Scenic Views of the Refuge
  • Wildlife and Plants of the Refuge
  • Connecting People with Nature on the Refuge
  • Young Nature Photographers (any of the above categories, age 16 and under)

To Enter:

Labeled entries and signed release form must be received no later than 4:00 p.m. October 27, 2023. Click here for photo contest brochure with printable entry form. Entries may be dropped off at the Winona District Office or mailed to:

Leslie Watson
102 Walnut Street, Suite 205
Winona, MN 55987

Judging and Exhibition:

Entries will be judged before January 1, 2024 on three criteria:

  • capturing the spirit of Refuge
  • technical quality
  • intrinsic beauty

Winning photos will become part of an exhibit displayed at public events throughout the Refuge in 2024. Best of Show will be determined by public voting during these exhibits. Select entries will be posted on Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge’s and Friends of the Refuge Headwaters’ (FORH) social media pages.


Awards will be given in each category as follows:

  • 1st Place: $200.00
  • 2nd Place: $100.00
  • 3rd Place: $30.00
  • Best of Show: $200.00

Release Form for Photos Subjects

Any entry containing people must have a signed Photo Contest Likeness Release form for each subject in the photo.

Use of Photos:

FORH and the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge have the right to publish submitted photographs for educational, informational, and promotional purposes. Brochure photos and above by 2021 contest winners.

Questions and Information:

Stephanie Edeler
[email protected]