Skip Navigation

Visitor Activities

Sunset and Swans 512x219
  • Hunting

    Successful Pheasant Hunters

    Hunting is allowed for pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse, and deer.  Pheasant and Sharp-tailed grouse hunting is permitted within specific areas of Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge.  

    Archery Hunting: is permitted in specific areas of the Refuge. Legal species are white-tailed deer and mule deer. A South Dakota state archery license and a free special refuge permit are required. The state license must be applied for through the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department located in Pierre, South Dakota.  The free refuge permit is available at Refuge Headquarters during daily business hours (7:00am-3:30pm MST). 

    Muzzle-Loader Hunting: is permitted within specific areas of the Refuge.  Participants in this hunt must have a state license for Refuge muzzle-loader deer. Information about this and other state license requirements can be obtained at the South Dakota Game, fish and Parks Department web page. 

  • Fishing

    Mayfly

    Fishing is allowed within designated areas of the Refuge. Fishing for rainbow trout is available at the Trout Ponds. These ponds are generally stocked once in early spring and once in the fall with catchable size rainbow trout. Access is on a minimum maintenance road and caution should be used when travelling after recent rain or snowmelt.

    The Little White River Recreation Area (LWRRA) offers opportunities to catch channel catfish, yellow perch, black crappie, walleye, largemouth bass, and northern pike. 

    Fishing is also allowed in Pools 3, 4, 7, and 10, although few game fish are available in these areas. Primary management emphasis is for migratory birds, and most pools are partially or fully drawn down during some portion of the year. The use or possession of baitfish is prohibited on Lake Creek, which includes Pools 3, 4, 7, and 10. 

    Bowfishing is allowed on all Refuge waters open to fishing, according to bowfishing regulations listed in the South Dakota Fishing Handbook. The harvest of snapping turtles is also allowed in all areas currently opened to fishing and within 300 feet of all Refuge roads and service trails that are open to public travel. The use of seines, nets, and traps are not allowed. There are no Refuge permits required for fishing, bowfishing, and harvest of snapping turtles. A valid South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks fishing license is required, however. Visit the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks website for specifics on seasons, bag limits, license requirements, and other related information.

  • Wildlife Viewing

    Yellow Headed Blackbird

    Lacreek NWR offers excellent opportunities for wildlife observation and photography. Abundant habitat, water in an arid landscape, and light visitation provides an opportunity for a good sighting around every corner throughout the year. During the winter, large concentrations of trumpeter swans, Canada geese, and mallards can be found utilizing the open water provided by the spring flows and the natural foods grown in the wetlands during the growing season. Many visitors are surprised to find large numbers of waterfowl remain, when the rest of the northern Great Plains has completely frozen over. Large numbers of migratory birds return in the spring on their migration north. Some stay to nest here, including blue winged teal, mallards, American white pelicans, great blue herons, snowy egrets, long-billed curlews, burrowing owls, short-eared owls, northern harriers and bobolinks to name a few. For a complete list of bird species, check out our bird list. During the heat of the summer, most wildlife restricts their activities to the cooler morning and evening hours. Listen for diskcissels, grasshopper sparrows, and lark sparrows calling in the grasslands. You might find an American bittern, great blue heron, or black crowned night heron slowly hunting the shallows looking for a wetland meal. As summer fades into fall, shorebirds, raptors, waterfowl, and other species of birds begin their migration south. Many stop in at the Refuge to spend a day or a month. Some will spend the winter here.

    The entire Refuge is open to wildlife observation and photography. A few developed roads and trails exist, and you can often spot wildlife by driving the auto tour route slowly or taking a quiet walk on one of the designated trails. For visitors interested in exploring the rest of the Refuge, a number of Refuge dikes used to control water levels provide great opportunities for hiking. Vehicles are restricted to the designated roads. For more information about wildlife observation opportunities at Lacreek NWR, please contact the Refuge.

  • Photography

    Mule Deer

    Perhaps the fastest growing activity on National Wildlife Refuges in the past ten years has been wildlife photography.  That’s not surprising – the digital camera population explosion and cell phones with ever-improving picture-taking abilities are increasing the number of nature photographers at a rapid rate.  You don’t need to purchase expensive equipment or have any experience to get started.  A small camera or basic cell phone will do just fine for most visitors.

    Nearly 12 million people visit outdoor areas each year to photograph wildlife, and National Wildlife Refuges naturally are at the top of the list.  Refuges provide enhanced opportunities to photograph wildlife in natural habitats by providing platforms, brochures, interpreters, viewing areas, and tour routes.  Wildlife photography is a high-priority activity in the Refuge System.  We welcome beginning and expert photographers alike to record their outdoor adventures on film, memory card or internal hard drive! 

  • Trails and Auto Tour Route

    Pelicans

    A great way to see wildlife and take pictures is along our auto tour route or one of our walking trails.

    Auto Tour Route: A popular component of our public use program is a four and one half mile auto tour route that originates at the visitor center. You are welcome to explore places of interest on foot. Large numbers of trumpeter swans and other waterfowl may be observed from October through March. You will also likely see white tailed deer, ring necked pheasants, and many other species depending on the time of year. The main Refuge road from Headquarters to the northeast entrance also passes several wildlife observation hotspots, including a large prairie dog town, the pelican nesting islands, and two of the Refuge's largest wetlands. The Refuge roads that travel to the Trout Ponds and the west side of the Refuge to the Brown Ranch are open to public travel and provide additional opportunities for wildlife viewing from a vehicle. All of these roads are gravel and the conditions for travel deteriorate quickly after rainfall or snowmelt events. Check with Refuge Headquarters if in doubt of the road conditions.

    Walking Trails: The Pelican Island Trail is located 2.5 miles north of the visitor center. The trail is a short (0.25 miles) easy hike. This walking trail provides visitors with the rare opportunity to view American white pelicans nesting on two islands within Pool 9 on the Refuge. During late April and early May, visitors will see thousands of white pelicans located on these islands. There are great blue heron, snowy and cattle egret, double-crested cormorant, and black crowned night heron rookeries on the islands as well. By late August, all of the young will have fledged and moved on. In addition, visitors will likely see many different species of waterfowl, shorebirds and other birds, both resident and migrants in season.

    The Bird Trail, starts at Headquarters and makes an easy 0.25 mile loop around the display pond. Large willows, cottonwoods, and other shrubs often provides the opportunity to observe warblers and other birds species not commonly found in our grasslands and wetlands.

  • Environmental Education

    School Group USFWS

    National Wildlife Refuges serve many purposes, and one of our most important roles is as outdoor classrooms to teach about wildlife and natural resources.  Many refuges offer environmental education programs for a variety of audiences.  Refuges provide unique and exciting outdoor environments – excellent locations for hands-on learning activities.  Thousands of youth and adult groups visit every year to learn about a specific topic on wildlife, habitat, or ecological processes.

    Is your school, youth, environmental or other group interested in learning more about the wildlife, plants, habitats and ecology of a particular National Wildlife Refuge?  Contact Lacreek NWR to check on program availability and reservation policies.  Refuges are wild places, and we want to teach you more about them!

  • Interpretation

    Lacreek Sandhills 512x219

    Refuge System interpretation programs provide opportunities for visitors to make their own connections to the natural world.  From self-guided walks to ranger-led programs, many national wildlife refuges help visitors learn more about the wildlife and habitat behind the landscapes.

    In addition to staff and volunteers presenting programs to audiences, refuges use a variety of exhibits, signs, brochures, and electronic media to communicate natural history stories to visitors.  Printed and virtual information is often available on many topics, including plants and animals, seasonal migrations, habitats, refuge management strategies, and endangered species.

    Through Refuge System interpretation programs, you can learn why nearly all of the critically endangered Whooping Cranes spend the winter at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, about the beneficial role of wildfire to encourage native vegetation to grow at Necedah Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin, and thousands of other interesting and informative stories.

Page Photo Credits — Credit: USFWS
Last Updated: Jul 25, 2014
Return to main navigation