About the Refuge

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Boasting abundant wildlife, the North Platte National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) units contain a mixture of native prairie and woodland habitat. Whether the Refuge unit is surrounded by water (Stateline Island) or bordering a reservoir (Lake Alice, Lake Minatare, and Winters Creek), riparian habitat is a key feature of this Refuge. Although the water bodies attract an abundance of waterfowl and shorebirds, the riparian edges support passerines, raptors, and a variety of other birds. Additionally, 21 mammals, including both Mule and White-tailed Deer, can be seen throughout the year. During the warmer months, 17 species of reptiles and amphibians can also be observed.

The North Platte NWR was established in 1916 by Executive Order No. 2446 as a “preserve and breeding ground for native birds.” It is located in the Nebraska Panhandle, near Scottsbluff. It was declared a National Wildlife Refuge primarily because of fall concentrations of up to 250,000 Mallards, 11,000 Canada Geese and Bald Eagles.

The North Platte NWR is made up of Lake Minatare, Winter's Creek Lake, Lake Alice and Stateline Island in the North Platte River. While portions of Winters Creek Lake and Lake Alice are closed to all public entry, the remainder is open to a variety of public uses most of the year. 

Originally, the Refuge included four irrigation reservoirs which were constructed between 1910 and 1917. Three of these are still part of the Refuge: Lake Minatare - 737 acres; Winters Creek - 536 acres; and Lake Alice - 1,500 acres. The Little Lake Alice reservoir was removed from the Refuge System in 1961. In 1990, the Fish and Wildlife Service assumed management of Stateline Island, a 136-acre diversion project on the North Platte River.

Until 1990, all management activities were conducted from the Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), 100 miles to the east. The first on-site Refuge Manager was located in Scottsbluff in 1990 under the direction of the Crescent Lake NWR. The Crescent Lake/North Platte National Wildlife Refuge Complex was formally established and the headquarters moved from Crescent Lake NWR to Scottsbluff in 1992.  Seventeen years later, in 2009, the complex headquarters once again moved back to Crescent Lake NWR where it currently remains.

Also in 1992, several major conservation organizations sued the Department of the Interior over improper uses of National Wildlife Refuges, uses that were not compatible with the purposes of those refuges. The mass recreation at the Lake Minatare State Recreation Area was among the uses mentioned in that lawsuit and was, in fact, found incompatible. Because of the long history of recreation at Lake Minatare and its importance to the community, the affected area (2,470 acres) was removed from the Refuge System by Congress in 1996, with the condition that the site is closed during fall and winter months to provide a sanctuary for migratory birds.