About the Refuge

Long-billed Dowitchers

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge lies in northern Utah, where the Bear River flows into the northeast arm of the Great Salt Lake.  The Refuge protects the marshes found at the mouth of the Bear River; these marshes are the largest freshwater component of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem.  Since these marshes are in turn surrounded by arid desert lands, it is little wonder that they have always been an oasis for waterbirds and wildlife. 

History

In the 1920s, due to the loss of marshes and huge bird die-offs from botulism, local individuals and organizations urged Congress to protect this valuable resource in Northern Utah, and in 1928, the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge was created.  The purpose of the refuge is to serve as a "suitable refuge and feeding and breeding grounds for migratory waterfowl" (Presidential Proclamation, Public Law 302). 

More About the Refuge

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is one of the over 550 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System - a network of lands set aside and managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service specifically for wildlife. The Refuge and other wetlands associated with the Great Salt Lake provide critical habitat for migrating birds, over 250 species moving through this area annually by the millions to rest and feed.  As part of the Bear River Bay, the Refuge is designated as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site, a globally important shorebird area.

The refuge lies along the eastern edge of the Pacific Flyway and the western edge of the Central Flyway, making it an important resting, feeding, and nesting area for birds in both flyways.  Of more than 200 bird species that use the refuge, 67 species nest on the refuge.  American avocets and black-necked stilts nest by the thousands along refuge dikes and roads. White-faced ibis nest in dense emergent vegetation in large colonies of up to 10,000 birds.  Migrant tundra swans can number in the tens of thousands in the spring and fall.  The Service uses a complex system of dikes and water control structures to provide different water depths for a variety of waterbird species over the seasons. 

The refuge and its environs support diverse plant and animal species in a mosaic of upland, mudflat, river delta, brackish and freshwater marshes, temporary ponds, and uplands.  Refuge uplands have scattered knolls that form a unique ecological community in the Bear River delta. 

 Today, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge contains nearly 80,000 acres of marsh, open water, uplands, and alkali mudflats.  The marshes and open water are managed using a complex system of dikes and water control structures to provide a variety of water depths suitable for the needs of different waterbird species. The Refuge is an excellent place to observe wildlife along a 12-mile auto tour route, as well as enjoying hunting, fishing and wildlife photography.