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About the Refuge

About the Refuge

Mille Lacs National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1915 and is known as the smallest refuge (o.57 acres) in the National Wildlife Refuge System, which includes more than 556 refuges. It is closed to public access.  If you are boating on Mille Lacs Lake, please stay at least 100 yards offshore while fishing or observing wildlife from your watercraft. Minimizing human disturbance to the waterbirds that call the refuge home is a high priority.

Mille Lacs National Wildlife Refuge consists of two islands, Hennepin and Spirit, in Mille Lacs Lake. The islands are covered with jumbled rock, boulders, and gravel. Hennepin Island is managed as a nesting colony for the state-listed threatened common tern. Spirit Island is used by other colonial nesting species including ring-billed gulls, herring gulls, and double-crested cormorants. 
The two islands that make up Mille Lacs National Wildlife Refuge were given national designation in separate orders. Woodrow Wilson set aside Spirit Island with Executive Order 2199 on May 14, 1915, as Mille Lacs Reservation. On October 13, 1920, he enlarged the reservation with the addition of Hennepin Island under Executive Order 3340. The two islands were to constitute a “preserve and breeding ground for native birds.”  Mille Lacs National Wildlife Refuge has been designated as a State Important Bird Area, as part of the larger Mille Lacs Important Bird Area, by the National Audubon Society.


Mille Lacs NWR Centennial Celebration 

Since Mille Lacs NWR was first established in 1915, this year it will be 100 years old!  We are having a BIG event to celebrate the smallest refuge in the NWR system. You're invited to our FREE event on Friday, June 12 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Father Hennepin State Park, located at the southern end of Mille Lacs Lake.

The event is sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Natural Resources, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and the Friends of Rice Lake NWR. There will be many activities including a drum circle, arts and crafts, games, interactive history displays and much more! Please see our Mille Lacs NWR Centennial flyer for more details.  

Mille Lacs National Wildlife Refuge is closed to public visitation.  For more information about the refuge, contact:


Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge
36289 State Highway 65
McGregor, MN 55760
Phone: 218-768-2402
V/TTY: 800-877-8339

Last Updated: May 01, 2015
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