Lake Darling, a 9,600 acre lake named in honor of Ding Darling, a political cartoonist and first director of the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey (predecessor to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) is the largest of several water impoundments found on the Upper Souris NWR. The lake's primary purpose is to furnish a regulated water supply to smaller marshes downstream and especially to the larger marshes on the J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge, 110 miles downstream. The lake is designed to hold a two-year supply of water to safeguard marshes downstream against the threat of drought. The dam also makes it possible to reduce the flooding and to regulate releases during periods of low flow. Both operations benefit people in the valley below the dam.
In 1998, the dam also became an integral part of the Souris River Flood Control Project that assists in providing 100-year flood protection for the city of Minot.
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While Lake Darling was originally intended as a water supply reservoir for downstream refuges, it has become a productive fishery and important fall staging areas for snow geese.