About the Refuge

Scenic Lake Creek Valley

The Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) lies in the shallow Lake Creek valley on the northern edge of the Nebraska Sandhills and includes 16,410 acres of native sandhills, sub-irrigated meadows, impounded fresh water marshes, and tall and mixed grass prairie uplands. The Refuge serves as an important staging area for migrating waterfowl, sandhill cranes, shorebirds, and neotropical migrants. Providing critical wintering habitat for the high plains trumpeter swan population is a primary goal.


Lacreek NWR was established in 1935 as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife. The Refuge is located in Bennett County in southwestern South Dakota and is the only refuge in South Dakota headquartered west of the Missouri River. The original Refuge, consisting of about 9,362 acres, was established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt under executive order #7160 on August 26, 1935 as Lacreek Migratory Waterfowl Refuge to further the purposes of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife.  

Lacreek Old Refuge Sign 1936 
The original Refuge sign circa 1936. 

Lacreek's history is forever tied to the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and Works Progress Administration (WPA) era of the mid-1930s. With the country experiencing severe unemployment, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, after only two days in office, created the CCC as a means to employ young men ages 18-25 to work in forests, parks, and rangelands. In addition, young men working under the WPA planted thousands of trees and shrubs on the Refuge.

CCC Dike Construction - Historical Photo  CCC Dike Construction - Historical Photo 2 
Much of the dike-construction and infrastructure work at Lacreek Refuge was done by young men enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps in the mid to late 1930s. 
The Brown Ranch Addition, consisting of 6,662 acres, more or less, was acquired under the authority of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929 on September 2, 1971 for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds. In 1981, clear title was received for the 223 acre Little White River Recreation Area under the authority of the Refuge Recreation Act (76 Stat. 653, as amended, 16 USC 460k). The 160 acre Charles Emley inholding was purchased in 1985 by authority of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act. The Refuge is currently at 16,410 acres. View the map showing individual parcels comprising Lacreek Refuge.