Welcome to Tewaukon National Wildlife Refuge
Early settlers and explorers described the northern tallgrass prairie as a sea of grass, undulating waves splashed with colors from a wide variety of wildflowers. Shimmering ponds were scattered throughout the grassy sea. Trees were absent from the landscape, except along rivers and creeks. Large herds of bison roamed these vast grasslands, often followed by wolves that fed on weak and sick animals. Ducks, geese, and shorebirds darkened the sky during migration. Sharp-tailed grouse danced during courtship, small brown sparrows darted in and out of the tall grass after insects, and hawks floated on wind currents eyeing the thick grass below for a tasty mouse or rabbit meal.
Tewaukon National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is located in southeastern North Dakota and is situated on the western edge of the northern tallgrass prairie. The Refuge is located astride the Wild Rice River, which flows west to east then north out of Lake Tewaukon. Tewaukon NWR is also located in the Prairie Pothole Region. The density of wetlands in this area make it one of the most biologically productive systems on the continent.
The Refuge was established in 1945 to provide a resting and breeding place for migratory birds and other wildlife. The 8,363-acre Refuge has two units, Tewaukon and Sprague Lake. The Tewaukon Wetland Management District, established in 1960, is also managed from the Refuge headquarters. The District includes over 14,000 acres of Waterfowl Production Areas, 35,000 acres of wetland easements, and more than 20,000 acres of grassland easements located throughout Sargent, Ransom, and Richland counties.
Tewaukon NWR's diverse wildlife habitat includes native prairie, planted grasslands, wooded and grassy stream corridors, a variety of wetlands (temporary, seasonal, and permanent), and croplands. The Refuge is one of over 535 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System - a network of lands set aside specifically for wildlife. Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Refuge System is a living heritage, conserving wildlife and habitat for people today and for generations to come.
A Place For Wildlife
Refuge wetlands, prairies, grasslands, and stream corridors provide wildlife with diverse habitats that meet their needs. East meets west at Tewaukon NWR. Birds commonly associated with eastern woodlands and birds common in Midwestern grasslands are found here. During the course of a year, over 243 different bird species use Refuge habitats.
Wetlands on the Refuge come in a variety of sizes and depths. Temporary and seasonal wetlands fill with water in the early spring from snowmelt and are usually dry by mid-summer. These smaller wetlands provide important food resources for migrating birds and pair habitat for breeding ducks.
Larger, more permanent wetlands usually hold water year-round unless drought conditions exist. Waterfowl, wading birds, marsh wrens, muskrats, mink, leopard frogs, and painted turtles are a few of the species that depend on Refuge wetlands.
Remnants of the once vast tallgrass prairie are still found on hillsides, around wetlands, and in small scattered tracts on the Refuge. A wide variety of tall grasses, including porcupine grass, big bluestem, Indian grass, switchgrass, and cordgrass, are common. Purple coneflower, Maximillian sunflower, prairie lily, blazing stars, and ladies tresses are just a few of the colorful wildflowers found in the Refuge prairies. Several species of prairie birds, including the upland sandpiper, bobolink, short-eared owl, and northern harrier, use the native prairies. Butterfly species, including monarchs, regal fritillarys, and skippers, are found only on the native prairie sites.
Fires and grazing were common on the prairies before settlement. Today, prescribed fire and shortterm grazing are used to maintain prairie grasses and wildflowers, reduce and control non-native plant species, and slow the invasion of grasslands by woody species. Keeping grasslands healthy is important for ground-nesting birds, grassland butterflies, and other prairie wildlife.
Water management is important on Tewaukon NWR. Water levels are managed in 38 wetlands along the Wild Rice River. These wetlands provide nesting, feeding, and resting habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds, and other wetlands species.
Historically, most of the Refuge lands were farmed. Much of this land has been seeded to grassland cover. Approximately 500 acres are still maintained as cropland. Corn, millet, and winter rye or wheat are left as food for white-tailed deer and migrating waterfowl.
Managing for Wildlife
Planted grasslands found on the Refuge include a mix called dense nesting cover. Alfalfa, sweetelover, and wheatgrass are planted in dense nesting cover fields. This mix provides dense cover for ground-nesting birds, such as mallards, gadwalls, bobolinks, and grasshopper sparrows.
Wooded areas are found along the Wild Rice River, LaBelle Creek, Lake Tewaukon, and Sprague Lake. Comprised of willows, cottonwoods, ash, and bur oaks, these woody areas provide white-tailed deer with secluded fawning areas and protection from winter winds. Warblers, orioles, flycatchers, woodpeckers, and other songbirds nest in these locations.
The primary purpose of Tewaukon NWR is to provide habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. Refuge staff use a variety of habitat management practices to provide food, water, shelter, and space for many birds and animals. These include grazing, prescribed burning, seeding grassland cover, invasive species control, water management, and cropland management.
Wildlife Through the Seasons
The Refuge is home to a rich variety of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Muskrats and tiger salamanders find food and cover in the wetlands, raccoons and yellow warblers search for meals along the wooded lakeshores, and Swainson's hawks and monarch butterflies navigate above the grasslands looking for food. Wildlife can be found year-round on the Refuge. The number and species of wildlife change throughout the seasons on the Refuge. Some seasonal wildlife highlights follow.
January - February
Snow buntings and snowy owls come down from Canada to winter in North Dakota and can be seen on roads, fence posts, bales, and crop fields.
March - April
Snow geese, Canada geese, and ducks begin their migration north for the summer in great numbers. They can be seen resting on large open bodies of water.
Canada geese begin laying their eggs on muskrat huts and along wetland edges.
Great horned owls are laying their eggs in nests built in large trees.
Skunks and raccoons emerge from their winter slumber to hunt for food.
Ducks are pairing up on small temporary and seasonal wetlands.
Pintails and mallards begin nesting in grasslands.
Peak migrations of golden plovers, lesser yellowlegs, and other shorebird species occur. These birds can be seen searching for food in wetland margins and crop fields.
Blue-winged teal, shovelers, and gadwalls begin nesting in dense grassland cover.
Look and listen for singing songbirds, including western meadowlarks, bobolinks, and grasshopper sparrows, as they begin to nest.
The first duck broods can be seen in the morning and evening feeding on insects in seasonal wetlands.
Spotted fawns can be seen in the grasslands and along trees.
July - August
Regal fritillarys, monarch butterflies, and other prairie butterflies begin searching for nectar in prairie wildflowers.
Ducks and geese go through a molt (loss of feathers) making them flightless for 2 weeks. They can be seen on large open bodies of water.
Red-tailed hawks, rough-legged hawks, peregrine falcons, and other raptors can be seen perched on bales and fence posts as they migrate south for the winter.
Over 100,000 ducks heading south stop at the Refuge to rest and feed in wetlands and croplands.
Clouds of white snow geese funnel onto the Refuge to rest on big bodies of water.
Family groups of tundra swans stop to feed in area wetlands before heading to wintering grounds at Chesapeake Bay.
November - December
The last of the migrating birds, including common goldeneyes and buffleheads, filter through the Refuge.
Bald eagles can be seen in large trees near large bodies of water or on the ice feeding on waterfowl and fish.
A Place For People
The Refuge offers several recreational opportunities including fishing, hunting, wildlife observation, photography, and hiking. Refuge hours are from 5:00 am to 10:00 pm. The Refuge visitor center is located on the east side of County Road 12 on the Tewaukon Unit. The visitor center has several wildlife and cultural exhibits for you to enjoy. Accessible rest rooms are also available at the visitor center. Information about management and recreational activities, wildlife, and other natural resources are found in Refuge pamphlets. These pamphlets may be found at kiosks at the visitor center and the Lake Tewaukon East Picnic Area. Refuge staff are available at the visitor center to answer questions from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, except holidays.
Fishing for northern pike and walleye can be enjoyed on Lake Tewaukon and Sprague Lake. Anglers may fish from shore, from a boat May 1 through September 30, and through the ice. An accessible boat ramp and fishing dock are located on the east end of Lake Tewaukon. White-tailed deer and ring-necked pheasant hunting are allowed on the Refuge during the fall. Please see the Fall and Winter Visitor Information pamphlet for detailed information on hunting seasons and regulations.
An 8-mile self-guided Prairie Lake Auto Tour takes you through a variety of Refuge habitats. The auto tour provides excellent wildlife viewing opportunities for waterfowl and other water birds. You might glimpse or snap a photo of a whitetailed deer feeding or a mink scurrying along the wetland edge. The auto tour includes a scenic overlook on the south side of Lake Tewaukon where you can view most of the lake and flocks of waterfowl during spring and fall migration.
Picnic and lake access sites are located around Lake Tewaukon. Both Sprague Lake and Lake Tewaukon have rest rooms and informational kiosks. The site on the east end of Lake Tewaukon has accessible rest rooms, a picnic shelter and tables, a fishing dock, and a boat ramp.
You are encouraged to enjoy the Refuge activities discussed in this brochure. We encourage you to contact us about activities and opportunities that are not specifically discussed in this brochure or other Refuge publications.
Wildlife Viewing Tips
Watching wildlife can be a fun and enjoyable experience. It also can be frustrating. Below are some basic suggestions to make your wildlife viewing a success.
. Move quietly and maintain distance between yourself and the animals. Although animals often disappear when you arrive, they may return shortly if you remain quiet and still.
. Use binoculars or spotting scopes to view wildlife from a distance.
. Bring a field guide to help you identify specific species and the habitats they prefer, when they are active, and what they eat.
. Plan your visit according to the season and time of day. Morning and early evenings during migration are best for viewing large numbers of waterfowl.
. Watch for wildlife in areas where two habitat types meet. Animals are attracted to the many types of food and cover offered here.
Safety Tip: Do not handle, chase, or harass wildlife. Many of the species can, and will, bite or have claws that can cause injury. Several species of wildlife can carry harmful diseases. Please watch wildlife safely - from a distance.
To minimize disturbance to wildlife, these activities are prohibited on the Refuge:
·Harassing or injuring wildlife
·Disturbing, destroying, or removing plants
·Removing artifacts and historic items
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Signs
These signs will help you locate areas managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that are open to public use opportunities and areas that are closed to public use or entry.
Authorized activities only. Boundary Check with the Refuge Manager for additional information.
Waterfowl Production Area
Open to hunting, fishing, and trapping, in accordance with Federal and North Dakota State regulations.
Area Beyond This Sign Closed
Area closed to all entry.
No Hunting Zone
No hunting of any kind is allowed in this area.
Equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from programs and activities of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is available to all individuals regardless of physical or mental ability. For visitors using TDD, contact the Relay Service at 711. For more information or to address accessibility needs, please contact the Refuge staff at 701 / 724 3598 or the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Equal Opportunity, 1849 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20240.