Established as Snake Creek National Wildlife Refuge in 1955, the Refuge provides habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. Developed to compensate for habitat lost when Garrison Dam flooded Missouri River bottom lands, the Refuge was renamed in 1967 in honor of John James Audubon. A 19th century naturalist and wildlife artist, Audubon spent the summer of 1843 in what is now northwestern North Dakota collecting and painting northern plains wildlife. The Refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on land owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Encompassing 14,735 acres, much of the Refuge - 10,421 acres - includes Lake Audubon itself. But 3,020 grassland acres offer habitat for upland wildlife of all sizes including Baird's and Le Conte's sparrows in addition to sharp-tailed grouse, foxes, coyotes and white-tailed deer. The 370 wetland acres offer habitat for shorebirds, gulls, terns , rails and cranes. Almost 100 islands dot Lake Audubon - enough for 450 acres of Giant Canada goose and duck nesting habitat. The Refuge serves as an important feeding and resting area for waterfowl migrating in the Central Flyway. Cropland and several large tree plantings can also be found on the Refuge.
Visitor activities include a 7.5 mile interpretive auto tour route exploring the area's history, agriculture's role in benefiting wildlife, wetlands, native prairie and the Refuge's contribution in restoring the Giant Canada goose - a bird once on the verge of extinction on North Dakota's prairies. A one-mile interpretive hiking trail offers a first-hand look at prairie and wetlands. A blind is available for viewing and photographing the sharp-tailed grouse's spring courtship dance, a fast flurry of feet, outstretched wings and strutting. Fishing is allowed during the winter and hunters have upland bird and deer opportunities during special seasons.