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Dragonfly Festivals in America

Updated on May 9, 2023
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years' experience in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, history, and aerospace education for USAF Civil Air Patrol.

Blue Dasher Dragonfly
Blue Dasher Dragonfly | Source

A Festival of Good

It is said around the world that the dragonfly is a symbol of positive change. This is change toward greater self realization, cognitive and emotional maturity, and adaptability as one searches for the meaning of life.

New Festivals Multiplying

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (once known as the Fish and Game Service, emphasis on hunting) advises travelers to take a trip to one of the most popular attractions to draw visitors in years: Dragonfly Festivals.

Dragonfly watching may become as popular as bird-watching soon, because new field guides have been released to help watchers identify and record their viewing successes.

These festivals are developing in America from coast to coast, but the Fish and Wildlife Service recommends that the best places to visit are

  • Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico; and
  • Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, Indiana (see map below).

Recommended Dragonfly Festivals

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge:
Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Roswell, NM 88201, USA

get directions

Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge:
Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, Winslow, IN 47598, USA

get directions

Native Meanings

In some Native North America cultures, the dragonfly stands for happiness, speed. and purity.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Flame SkimmerBanded DemoiselleAutumn Hawker
Flame Skimmer
Flame Skimmer | Source
Banded Demoiselle
Banded Demoiselle | Source
Autumn Hawker
Autumn Hawker | Source

Meeting a Dragonfly

I admire and enjoy dragonflies for their irridescent beauty and graceful movements, but once, I accidentally killed one.

One Friday night in high school, I stood on a football field with the rest of our Bearcat Marching Band, ready to begin a trumpet solo. Opening my mouth and taking a deep breath, I was momentarily interrupted by a dragonfly that few into my mouth and down my throat. Coughing it up quickly, I found it was dead and crushed.

I completed the solo, but never figured out why the inset flew into my mouth, with so many other people and open-belled instruments nearby. It perplexes me still, since the dragonfly has generally very good vision in its large eyes and a head that rotates 360º.

Halloween Pennant, often found in Florida.
Halloween Pennant, often found in Florida. | Source

Dragonfly Festival in Roswell, New Mexico

It is not enough excitement to have UFO palaces and a UFO Festival in wonderful, mysterious Roswell, New Mexico. That town also sponsors a fun Dragonfly Festival every year since 1937.

The UFO museum in Roswell is guaranteed the city's placement into the 100 Greatest Places to Stand in America list, sponsored by recently. The annual Dragonfly Festival there only adds to that worthiness.

Roswell is a fantastic place to visit and to take photos - of aliens and insects alike (sometimes they are even the same things).

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge:
Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Roswell, NM 88201, USA

get directions

New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment...and dragonflies.

Spaceport America:
Spaceport America, New Mexico 87901, USA

get directions

White Sands National Monument:
White Sands National Monument, 19955 U.S. 70, Alamogordo, NM 88310, USA

get directions

Roswell Dragonfly Festival Information

This festival is held during a weekend at the beginning of September each year from 6:30 am with an early tour, to 6:00 pm on Saturday and from 8:00 am - 5:00 pm Sunday.

Festivities and events include dragonfly tours of the refuge, arts and rafts booths, entertainment, and concessions. presentations are given throughout the weekend events, with some speakers often appearing to represent local universities.

One Hundred Species to Watch

The New Mexico area Dragonfly Festival is located in the Bitter Lake refuge that is home to at least 100 species of dragonfly and damselfly, together called Odonates in scientific language.

When I hear the "odo", I think of my car's odometer and of Constable Odo on ST:Deep Space Nine, but the insects are neither mileage indicators nor shape-shifters. However, they are carnivores.

Many of the dragonflies are rare species found only in areas of the refuge where visitors are not permitted to enter, but plenty of others are in viewing range. Park rangers recommend the book Sidney Dunckle’s Dragonflies Through Binoculars as the best guide for viewing and identifying the insects.

Damsels and Dragons in New Mexico

Damselflies have interesting names among New Mexico species, like Lavender Dancer. There are other dancers, along with Spreadwings, Forktails, Firetails, and Bluets.

Local Dragonflies include the Blue Eyed Darner (probably because it looks like a huge needle), additional Darners, and Ringtails, Baskettails, Pennants, Pondhawks, Meadowhawks, Skimmers, Gliders, and Saddlenbags.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Blue Eyed DarnerNot a Lavender Dancer, but a dragonfly.Twelve Spot Skimmer
Blue Eyed Darner
Blue Eyed Darner | Source
Not a Lavender Dancer, but a dragonfly.
Not a Lavender Dancer, but a dragonfly. | Source
Twelve Spot Skimmer
Twelve Spot Skimmer | Source

Dragonfly Wing vs. Damselfly Wing (bottom)

Note that the dragonfly wing is broader all along its width than is the damselfly wing.
Note that the dragonfly wing is broader all along its width than is the damselfly wing. | Source

Dragonfly Life Cycle

Dragonfly Tours

During dragonfly tours around varius parts of eight miles of trails in the wildlife refuge park feature guides on tour buses that will point out dragonfly and damselfly habitats as well as other wildlife and local native plants.You may also choose to hike some of the trails.

The Puzzle Sunflower, for instance, has been endangered, but is making a comeback. It's a puzzle, because it grows only in salt water and only in the fall. New Mexico is surely one of the most intriguing and enchanting places in our country.

Southwestern Indiana

Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge:
Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, Winslow, IN 47598, USA

get directions

See Wildlife and Native Plants Helped by Insects

The Halloween Pennant dragonfly, with orange and black wings, is visible in this park at almost any oxbow or wetland from mid-June through early October.

Giant Cane is also fond in this park and in fact, is nowhere else found bit in Indiana. it is the sole bamboo that is native to the United States. Numerous species of native wildlife congregate in this park, including swamp rabbits and the many insects that include the dragonfly. Once endangered, these bamboo planbts are thriving again and contributing to the ecosystem of this refuge.

Puzzle or Pecos Sunflower, an endangered native plant pollinated by dragonflies.
Puzzle or Pecos Sunflower, an endangered native plant pollinated by dragonflies. | Source

Dragonfly Hiking and Watching in Indiana

Not swelling to the proportions of a single weekend festival yet, the Patoka River refuge welcomes visitors to watch the dragonflies and damsel flies along three miles of maintained trails from June through early October every year. As visitors and interest increase, the refuge would very likely begin its own festival, since other national wildlife refuges are doing so.

The wetlands are the best places in the park for your insect viewing of 30 species of dragonflies and 13 species of damselflies. Many rare species here are exciting. before beginning your dragonfly hike, get a copy of the brochure called Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Patoka River Refuge at the park office. Inside, you will find species lists, flight seasons, and best times to catch a glimpse of seems almost like a scavenger hunt.


Newer Festivals

  • Dragonfly Festival of Albuquerque NM in Mid-June.

  • Dragonfly Festival of Ashland, MA in Mid-August

  • Dragonfly Festival at Fossil Discovery Center in Madera County, California in Early June.

  • The Dragonfly Festival & 5K Run in Hattiesburg MS at the End of April.

  • Village of Wabamun in Alberta Province CA - Last Saturday of June

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Patty Inglish MS


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