The Banks Lake National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1985 under the Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 and the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965. The refuge lies in the
Grand Bay–Banks Lake (GBBL) ecosystem, an area that comprises the
second-largest freshwater wetland system in Georgia. The GBBL area contains a
number of unique ecological systems that support a variety of plants and
animals, including freshwater and terrestrial federal- and state-listed species.
The refuge’s most
notable feature is Banks Lake, a shallow blackwater lake studded with cypress
trees that supports many fish species, as well as other aquatic animals. It was formed when the Carolina Bay that makes up most of the refuge was dammed over 150 years ago. The refuge contains a variety of habitat types, including cypress swamp, freshwater marsh, uplands, and open water.