Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1992 for the protection and restoration of bottomland hardwood forest. Approximately 5,000 acres of the 7,500 acre refuge are available for wildlife oriented recreation including hunting, fishing, and birding. A wildlife sanctuary encompasses the remaining 2,500 acres of the refuge and is not available for public use.
The refuge is one of a system of over 500 refuges administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and dedicated to the preservation and conservation of wildlife. The refuge is named after the Marais des Cygnes river which runs through the middle of the refuge and is the dominant natural feature of the region. The name, Marais des Cygnes, comes from the French language and means Marsh of the Swans. It is presumed that Trumpeter Swans, which were historically common in the Midwest, used the wetlands adjacent to the Marais des Cygnes River during spring and fall migration.