Little River National Wildlife Refuge’s primary purpose is to preserve the bottomland hardwood forests for migratory birds and waterfowl on the Central Flyway. The 14,216-acre refuge was established in 1987 as the nation’s 438th refuge, and protects one of the largest remaining areas of bottomland hardwood forests found in Oklahoma. The refuge features low, wet habitat with old oxbow lakes and sloughs that wind their way throughout the bottomland habitat. Most of the refuge is forested with bottomland species such as willow oak, overcup oak, Shumard oak, sweetgum, cypress, white oak, and holly. Some areas on higher ground support species such as loblolly pine, hickory, and walnut.
Little River National Wildlife Refuge was established for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds, for the conservation of wetlands, and for the development, advancement, management, conservation, and protection of fish and wildlife resources. Oklahoma House Joint Resolution #1046, which approved the establishment of the refuge by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, further indicated that the purpose of the refuge was for the preservation of bottomland hardwood habitat for migratory waterfowl, particularly mallards and wood ducks.