by William Eric McFadden

From the refuge's website:

The Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1990 to protect, conserve, and restore habitat for wildlife native to the river's floodplain. The refuge consists of twenty-two islands and four mainland tracts scattered along 362 miles of the upper Ohio River. Most of the refuge's 3,440 acres of land and underwater habitat are located in West Virginia; however, Pennsylvania and Kentucky each have two refuge islands.

The refuge is important in conserving the "wild" Ohio within one of our nation's busiest inland waterways. Refuge islands are gradually returning to forested conditions after years of farming, oil and gas extraction, and other activities. The refuge works to protect wildlife and habitats native to the Ohio River and its floodplain. Migratory birds and endangered freshwater mussels are among the important wildlife emphasized on the refuge.



Two members of the Southeast Ohio Radio Adventure Team succeeded in performing a valid activation of Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refugee, K-0608, in West Virginia as part of the the Parks on the Air (POTA; link) program. Eric McFadden, WD8RIF, and Miles McFadden, KD8NKC, visited Middle Island near St. Marys, West Virginia, on a cool, gray Fall day following their visit to the Parkersburg / Wood County Hamfest.

After only one wrong turn, the pair arrived at Middle Island, the only island within the park with an automobile bridge, at about 1830 UTC and drove the entire length of the road on the island before selected an operating location at the cul-de-sac at the end of the road in the middle of the island. The pair cooperated to set up Eric's Enhanced KX3 Travel Kit and 28½' end-fed wire supported by the MFJ-1910 33' fiberglass mast. Eric again sat on his Harbor Freight "Folding Aluminum Sports Chair" (link), using the small fold-up table to support his KX3. Eric was on the air by 1857 UTC.

Eric's plan was to initially concentrate on 40m and 20m and try to work stations participating in the QRP ARCI Fall QSO Party; the SKCC Weekend Sprint; and the Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota QSO Parties in order to quickly make the ten QSOs required to validate the POTA activation before beginning to run a frequency so POTA Hunters could find him. This strategy worked well. In the first hour Eric made thirteen QSOs: two AZ QSO Party QSOs on 20m, nine PA QSO Party QSOs on 40m, and two SKCC Weekend Sprint QSOs on 20m. The two SKCC Weekend Sprint QSOs were with F6HKA (link) in France and EA1AOQ (link) in Spain. (Eric used his Whiterook MK-33 single-lever paddle as a sideswiper so his SKCC QSOs counted for points in that event, which requires the use of a manual key, although Eric won't be submitting an SKCC log.) No stations participating in the Nevada or South Dakota QSO Parties were heard, and no stations participating in the QRP ARCI Fall QSO Party were heard.

Eric started running his own frequency around 2000 UTC on 20m but made only one POTA QSO there, with KK0ECT, despite spotting-assistance provided by Eric's good friend and fellow SEORAT-member, Mike, K8RAT. Eric changed to 40m and immedidiately had better luck there. His first POTA QSO on 40m was with K8RAT. Mike's spotting of Eric on 40m led to five more POTA QSOs before Eric finally shut down his station at 2035 UTC.

Eric also submitted his log to the World Wide Flora and Fauna in Amateur Radio (WWFF; link) program although his twenty QSOs were not sufficient to achieve a valid activation within the program which requires 44 QSOs be made. However, the WWFF program allows these 44 QSOs be made over any number of visits so a valid activation within WWFF is still possible if subsequent visits to the park are made.

All Eric's QSOs were made at the 5-watt level. Miles did not operate but helped with set-up and tear-down and did most of the activation photography.