About the Refuge

Black Coulee 1

Black Coulee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is one of four satellite, or un-manned refuges, administered by the Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge, Wetland Management District.

Black Coulee NWR is located in Blaine County, about 10 miles south of the town of Turner.  The refuge as establish by Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 28, 1938 by Executive Order Number 7801 as a Migratory Waterfowl Refuge.

The general topography of the land is rolling mixed-grass prairie with major drainages running in a northeasterly direction, and a 173 acre reservoir. Black Coulee Reservoir provides water for migratory birds as well as nesting and brood-rearing habitat. It also serves as an important migration stop-over in the spring and fall.

The history of the Black Coulee NWR is tied to the Emergency Relief Act and the Works Progress Administration program. Created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl era of the mid -1930’s, these programs were developed to employ the maximum number of people to work on public lands.

Works Progress Administration crews performed construction on all four satellite refuges in the Bowdoin NWR Complex between 1936 and 1941. Their activities focused not only on buildings, roads, and other facilities, but also on the construction of dams and levees to impound water.

The Works Progress Administration was pivotal to the establishment of all four satellite refuges. During this Dust Bowl era, the country and the Government were very focused on capturing and conserving water for wildlife, particularly waterfowl, and agricultural operations. Water impoundments were popularized when the connection was made to employing out-of-work citizens to build the structures needed to impound and manage limited water resources.