The Marais des Cygnes NWR was established in 1992 for the protection and restoration of bottomland hardwood forests. 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. It is adjacent to the state-owned Marais des Cygnes Wildlife Area. 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. Refuge habitat consists primarily of bottomland hardwood forests around the Marais des Cygnes River. This habitat is somewhat unique to Kansas. Uplands surrounding the hardwood forests are primarily prairie grasslands. Some of which are native tallgrass prairies; an ecosystem in decline.