1938 Refuge Picture 512 x 219

President Franklin D. Roosevelt established Bowdoin Migratory Waterfowl Refuge in 1936. At that time, the Bureau of Biological Survey (a precursor to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) shared jurisdiction with the Bureau of Reclamation which remained in place until 1971. In 1971 the Bureau of Reclamation withdrew giving primary jurisdiction to the now U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

  • Geological History

    Lake Bowdoin From Gun Club 150x118

    Geological history indicates that Lake Bowdoin was once an oxbow of the preglacial Missouri River channel. Today, the Missouri River lies nearly 70 miles south of the Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge. Prior to human settlement, Lake Bowdoin once acted as a large catch basin for precipitation, early spring floods, and runoff events. Lake levels fluctuated from year to year, depending on runoff conditions and evaporation during hot dry summers. 

  • Cattle Grazing

    Cattle Grazing 1920 150x118

    In the 1800s, Lake Bowdoin was an important watering source for trailing cattle herds. Grasslands around the lake often suffered extensive overgrazing from the watering herds. Not until the refuge was established in 1936 did the area receive protection and development for wildlife purposes. 

  • Milk River Valley Gun Club

    Milk River Valley Gun Club 150x118

    In the early 1920's, the Milk River Gun Club (seen on the shores of Lake Bowdoin) introduced a bill into Washington that would have granted them ~80 acres on the shore of Lake Bowdoin for private use. Club members informed congress that in order to enforce game laws, the gun club would protect this land and keep poachers away, thereby protecting game animals. Although the bill passed the House and the Senate, President Wilson vetoed the bill and in his message indicated that the land should be made a public game preserve rather than turned over to a private shooting club. The gun club lodge was relocated from the shores of Lake Bowdoin in 1935 to the city of Malta, where it was turned into a restaurant.  The building is still standing but is no longer in use. 

  • Canada Goose Reintroduction

    Goose Program 150x118

    Canada geese populations were nearly extirpated in the early to mid-1900's due to over hunting and habitat loss.  An opportunity to see or hear a flock of Canada geese was a rare experience.  In the 1930's, National Wildlife Refuges worked to improve habitat for the geese and other waterfowl by improving nesting grounds in the prairie uplands, and creating or modifying wetlands for brood rearing.  By the mid-1940's, the managers at Bowdoin started seeing an increase in Canada geese numbers on improved nesting habitat around the Refuge. Not the same could be said for other Refuges so in 1946, Bowdoin staff started incubating and hatching eggs, raising goslings, and transporting young geese to other Refuges (such as Medicine Lake NWR in Montana) to establish new populations. It was the great work of early Refuge managers, through improvement of habitat conditions and transplanting of geese, that greatly contributed to a tremendous come back in Canada geese. Reintroduction of Canada geese is considered a great success and now they can be seen and heard across the nation.