Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge
Pacific Region
Deer Flat NWR
13751 Upper Embankment Rd Nampa, ID 83686
Phone: 208-467-9278
Fax: 208-467-1019

Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge Celebrates 95 Years of Protecting Wildlife

On February 25th, Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge will celebrate its 95th birthday. On that day in 1909, President Teddy Roosevelt established not just Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge, but also 16 other refuges in the new, fast-growing National Wildlife Refuge System.

Settler in the area near Deer Flat Reservoir in the 1880s (Courtesy of Bureau of Reclamation)The seeds for Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge were planted many years before it was established. Early European-American settlements in southwest Idaho were restricted by the availability of water, and tended to concentrate near rivers. In the early 1900s, Nampa land-owners began lobbying for a reservoir to irrigate crops on their parched lands.

horse teams lower damIn 1905, the Bureau of Reclamation agreed to build a reservoir in Nampa. Between 1906 and 1909, work crews built four dams to contain the new reservoir and enlarged the New York Canal to bring water from the Boise River. Then-President Theodore Roosevelt envisioned that a 9,000-acre reservoir located in such an arid environment would be an oasis for many wildlife species. Soon after dam construction was completed, he established Deer Flat Bird Reservation, which was later renamed Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge.

President Teddy RooseveltRoosevelt was correct in foreseeing the importance of this area to wildlife. Over the years, the refuge has expanded to include surrounding uplands and 101 islands in a 113-mile stretch of the Snake River. The refuge today provides a mix of habitats for resident wildlife and, like many other National Wildlife Refuges, serves as an important resting and wintering place for migratory ducks, geese, and songbirds.

“Deer Flat provides habitat for a wide variety of wildlife throughout the year,” said Elaine Johnson, Refuge Manager, “but winter is a great time to see an impressive display of wildlife, including adult and juvenile bald eagles, other birds of prey, and tens of thousands of waterfowl.”

The lake was originally called Deer Flat Reservoir. The area had been dubbed Deer Flat by early settlers, who saw herds of deer and elk come down from the mountains to feed on winter grasses available near many local springs. It was officially re-named in 1945 to honor Mr. J.H. Lowell, the one-time president of the local water users association who had led efforts to have the reservoir built.

The public is invited to visit the refuge to help celebrate 95 years of providing wildlife habitat. The refuge Visitor Center overlooking Lake Lowell is open 8 A.M. to 4 P.M. weekdays and 9 A.M. to 4 P.M. Saturdays. Visitors can watch wildlife from the observation room, learn about local wildlife from the interpretive exhibits, and enjoy hands-on learning in the kids’ activity area. For more information about visiting the refuge, contact us at 467-9278.

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Last updated: October 1, 2012