Lacreek Habitat

Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is within the geographic area known as the Northern Great Plains and is classified vegetatively as mixed grass prairie. The Refuge lies in the Lake Creek Valley that separates the Nebraska Sandhills on the south from the mid to short grass prairies to the north and west. The Refuge has 13 water impoundments and includes over 15 miles of dikes creating nearly 5,400 acres of shallow flooded marsh and open water habitat. The uplands at Lacreek NWR are composed of approximately 4,900 acres of native grasses, 5,450 acres of exotic introduced grasslands, 350 acres of restoration croplands, and 70 acres of non-commercial wood lots and shelter belts. The grasslands occur on rolling uplands, seasonally flooded sub-irrigated meadows, and choppy sandhills. The primary perennial water sources for the refuge include Lake Creek, Cedar Creek, Elm Creek, and several smaller spring-fed creeks that flow from the Sandhills. 

  • Wetlands

    Barnyard Grass and Smartweed

    Wetlands on the Refuge are managed to provide both resting cover and food for migratory birds during spring and fall migrations. Throughout the rest of the year, wetlands serve as production and maintenance habitat for waterfowl, other migratory birds, and resident wildlife. Refuge wetlands are managed using moist soil management techniques. Substantial emergent and submergent vegetation occur in wetlands at the refuge. Cattail, bulrushes, wild rice, smartweed and arrowhead abound, as well as sago pondweed, coontail and duckweed. Extensive mudflats created when wetlands are in the drawdown phase create quality food for migrating shorebirds and other neotropical species. Improved water quality and stimulated aquatic plant and insect growth occur during drawdowns and provide critical food, water, and shelter habitat for waterfowl, marsh/water birds, shorebirds, and neotropical migrants.

    (Pictured here) Barnyard grass and annual smartweed that grow in the summer provide abundant seeds from the fall and spring migration and high aquatic insect populations when reflooded.  

  • Wet Meadows

    Nuttalss Sunflower

    Wet meadows occur primarily in the valley on the western edge of the Refuge and along margins of the wetlands. They are categorized as wet meadows due to the presence of ground water near the surface. Even during drought, the groundwater provides plenty of water for lush plant growth. These wet meadows contain a variety of native forbs, grasses and sedges. The meadows are a glow in late summer with Maximillian and Nuttal's sunflowers, swamp milkweed, joe pye weed, and goldenrods. A wide variety of native grass grows here as well, including prairie cordgrass, Canada bluejoint, and big bluestem. An abundance of sedges can be found in the wettest sites, including Nebraska sedge, slough sedge, aquatic sedge, and bottlebrush sedge. Several species of willows and indigobush also grow here, adding fire tolerant shrubs to the landscape.

    (Picture here) Nuttall's sunflower in bloom.  

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  • Uplands

    Prairie Sunset

    There are approximately 4,900 acres of native grasses, of which 3,726 acres are in the Nebraska Sandhills. Big bluestem, little bluestem, sand bluestem, prairie sandreed, switchgrass, Indiangrass, Canada wildrye, June grass, sand dropseed, needle and thread grass, western wheatgrass, salt grass, among others and numerous native forbs have all been noted on Refuge grassland transects. The Sandhills' portion of the Refuge contain a diverse component of grass and forb species generally not found anywhere else on the Refuge. The Refuge contains approximately 5,450 acres of exotic, introduced grass species. Smooth brome and crested wheatgrass are the primary exotic grasses followed by Kentucky bluegrass. During the 1930's, large fields formerly planted to crops were planted to crested wheatgrass to minimize soil erosion. Many of these large, crested wheatgrass fields remain on the Refuge.

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