Migratory birds, resident wildlife and visitors alike have flocked to the Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge northeast of Aberdeen since its creation in 1935. The refuge sits on 21,500 acres of prairie and marshy wetlands along the James River. This unique ecosystem makes the location an important nesting, feeding, and resting ground for a large number of migratory birds, particularly waterfowl. An abundant variety of animals and birds also call the area home year round, making it an ideal spot to view and learn about wildlife.
Staff and crew members at the refuge specialize in wetland and upland habitat management practices, such as creating marshes and rejuvenating grasslands to conserve waterfowl. Deputy Project Leader Jay Petersen says their crew’s footprint in conservation efforts also extends well beyond Sand Lake. In total, they perform wetland management for 45,000 acres in eight different counties from Brown County west to the Missouri River.
The refuge is open to visitors during daylight hours. Popular activities include bird and wildlife watching, fishing, hunting, and nature photography. The indoor headquarters features an interactive visitor center filled with educational resources highlighting the wildlife living on site. Those visiting can hike on the walking trails and picnic at the day use area, or if weather permits driving, try their luck identifying different species of birds on the self-guided auto tour. According to Peterson, visitors to the refuge should expect some good wildlife sightings, “Bring binoculars, snacks and water. Once you start seeing things, time is going to get away.” // — Jenny Roth
For more information and directions to Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge visit their web site at www.fws.gov/refuge/sand_lake/ or call their office at 605-885-6320.