About the Refuge

Northern Pintails 512

Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) lies in the heart of the Missouri Coteau region, an ancient glacial moraine area. Topography ranges from rolling to steep hills and is covered by mixed-grass prairie. The area is dotted with wetlands that are often called "potholes." At 27,589 acres, the Refuge contains a 5,577-acre Wilderness Area established in 1975. 


Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is one of over 540 refuges administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - a system of lands set aside to conserve wildlife and habitat for people today and generations to come. Lostwood NWR is one of the largest publicly owned tracts of northern mixed grass prairie in the United States. At nearly 28,000 acres, this refuge provides key habitat for many unique species of grassland birds. Lostwood NWR is located in the physiographic region of North Dakota named the Missouri Coteau. Coteau is French for "little hill." This distinctive landscape of rolling hills and wetlands was shaped by glaciers. The glaciers melted away 10,000 years ago, leaving behind a moraine or ridge of rocks and soil varying in width from 10 to 60 miles extending from southeast Alberta to northwest Iowa.

Globally Important Bird Area 

Lostwood NWR is designated a Globally Important Bird Area by the American Birding Conservancy and the Audubon Society. The Refuge provides essential habitat for prairie-dependent bird species such as Sprague's pipits and Baird's sparrows. Some of the larger, showy members of the upland prairie include marbled godwits, upland sandpipers, and willets.

Human Influences  

Native Americans thrived in this area on abundant bison, waterfowl, and other game. Tipi rings, remnants of these previous residents, can be found at a number of locations on the Refuge. In the early 1900's, immigrants began to settle in the Lostwood area in response to the Homestead Act. The first settlers found few trees on the prairie. At on time, a small grove of trees was located near Lower Lostwood Lake. The settlers cut down the trees for fuelwood, and a blizzard buried the wood. The Refuge is named for this "lost wood."

Wilderness Area 

In 1964, the Wilderness Act was passed by Congress to protect large representative tracts of ecosystems across the United States. The 5,577-acre Lostwood Wilderness Area was created in 1975 to best represent and protect the northern mixed grass prairie of the Missouri Coteau. The Lostwood Wilderness is managed to preserve wild character, beauty, and native plants and animals.