Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Refuges, Refuges, Refuges,

North Dakota has more refuges than any other state. There are at least 63 refuges here and we are visiting as many of these refuges as we can. We drove over 500 miles yesterday to visit three of them.

Our first stop was J. Clark Salyer where our youngest son was an intern in the late 90's. He is now the South Texas Zone Biologist for the service.

It was interesting to see and walk in the same area where he had spent time while working there.

With 58,700 acres, it runs 45 miles and is the largest refuge in North Dakota. It is nestled in the lakebed of glacial Lake Souris surrounded by coteaus. The mixed-grass prairie support a great diversity of prairie wildlife.

A view from the overview by the contact station.

We were a little disappointed with our reception. The fellow did not know where the refuge stamp was and really did not care to look for it without my insistence. We were interested in driving the 22 mile auto tour, but he could not find the guide with the numbered spots!!! We did not stay long and soon left. Not to say we won't be back though.

A quick lunch stop at the Homesteaders in Minot. The building has petrified wood, which was beautiful. The food was okay.

On to the next refuge!!!

What a different reception we got here. Patty, the receptionist got up out of here chair with a nice smile (the way it should be) and enthusiastically welcomed us. Even the refuge manager came out to visit with us.

We took the short auto tour with a numbered guide explaining what we were seeing.

What a beautiful, picturesque drive that turned out to be. We found steep, native grass-covered hills, shrub-filled "coulees" (another French word meaning ravine) and a meandering river lined with hardwoods. Souris is another French word meaning "mouse" as there were many mice found in the meadows.

There are 32,034 acres and it extends for 35 miles along the beautiful Souris River Valley.

From this vantage point, we found many wildflowers blooming.

There were wood lilies scattered all around.

We spent so much time at this refuge...we liked it a lot...we were late getting to the next one, and they were closed, meaning we didn't get our book stamped...bummer.

Finally, we got to Lostwood.

We were running out of time, but picked up some brochures and headed out on the auto tour.

With 26,904 acres, it has many unique species of grassland birds that are prairie dependent such as Sprague's pipits and Baird's sparrow...and we still don't have the Baird's sparrow!!! 

This is as far as we drove on the auto tour route. The fire tower is 100 feet tall, but we could only go up halfway...that is as far as they allow. BUT, what some incredible views.

The auto tour goes for seven miles...we were ready to head home. Don't know if we will return this year to do it justice, but if we come back for a second season, it will get visited again...maybe we can get some of those grassland species early in the year when they make an appearance from the grass to sing!!!

I am always curious to know how the refuges are named. The first settlers in this area found very few trees on the prairie. At one time, a small grove of trees was located near Lostwood Lake. They were cut down for fuelwood...a blizzard buried the wood and could not be found...hence the name.

How about this baby willet? Mama was close by guarding all three of them.

I could write so much more as there is so much more about these refuges...this is just a condensed version of our time we spent visiting these three refuges.

Thanks for visiting and we hope you found it to be interesting.

Until next time...


  1. We volunteered at j Clark salyer a few years ago.... Sounds like things have changed a lot since that time. Too bad.... You deserve a better welcome!

  2. Sounds like the guy at Salyer needs a swift kick in the behind! You can sure gather a lot of stamps for the old passport book in North Dakota. Your wishing to see the grassland species is like my wishing to see the prairie chicken. ;)