About the Refuge


Pathfinder National Wildlife Refuge is comprised of 16,806 acres and was established in 1909.  Today the refuge consists of four separated land parcels called Sweetwater Arm, Goose Bay, DeWeese Creek, and Sage Creek.  The Refuge's boundaries have been modified several times since it's establishment.  In 1936 Executive Order 7425 established the present Refuge "as a refuge and breeding ground for birds and other wildlife". Its major habitats of open water wetlands, uplands consisting of shrub and grasslands and alkali flats support a diversity of wildlife. 

More About the Refuge

Pathfinder National Wildlife Refuge, located 47 miles southwest of Casper in central Wyoming, is situated in a high plains basin near the headwaters of the "Platte-Kansas Rivers" ecosystem.  The Refuge is managed jointly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Bureau of Land Management, and Natrona County Parks.  The Refuge was established as an overlay refuge on Bureau of Reclamation lands that resulted from the construction of the Pathfinder Dam. The dam created the first reservoir on the North Platte River.  This large body of water was very attractive to waterbirds offering, at the time of it's creation, a unique environment in this semiarid region of Wyoming.  Since then the reservoir on which the Refuge is situated has become part of a larger system of reservoirs including Alcova to the north and Seminoe to the south. Wildlife management must be compatible with those uses for which the Bureau of Reclamation acquired the land.  It administers lands within the Pathfinder Reservoir boundary for the North Platte Project's (111 mile irrigation project along the North Platte River Valley) purposes including flood control, irrigation and hydroelectric power generation.  A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) exists between the two agencies that specifies the management responsibilities of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service while preserving the autonomy of the Bureau of Reclamation to manage Pathfinder Dam and Reservoir.  

Part of a Refuge Complex

Pathfinder National Wildlife Refuge is managed as part of the Arapaho NWR Complex that includes one refuge in Colorado and four refuges in southern Wyoming.  A National Wildlife Refuge Complex is an administrative grouping of two or more refuges, wildlife management areas or other refuge conservation areas that are primarily managed from a central office location. Refuges are grouped into a complex structure because they occur in a similar ecological region, such as a watershed or specific habitat type, and have a related purpose and management needs. Typically, a project leader or complex manager oversees the general management of all refuges within the complex and refuge managers are responsible for operations at specific refuges. Supporting staff, composed of administrative, law enforcement, refuge manager, biological, fire, visitor services, and maintenance professionals, are centrally located and support all refuges within the complex.

Other refuges in the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge Complex include: Arapaho NWR in Walden, Colorado; Hutton Lake NWR, Mortenson Lake NWR and Bamforth NWR in the Laramie Plains of Wyoming. The Refuge Complex headquarters is located at 953 Jackson County Road #32, Walden, Colorado 80480.

Vision Statement

Pathfinder Reservoir and surrounding public lands supply life-cycle needs for a multitude of wildlife adapted to this semiarid region of central Wyoming.  The wetland complexes, upland sagebrush habitats and open waters of the reservoir provide feeding, breeding, staging, resting and nesting areas for migratory birds and resident wildlife.  Management decisions will be directed toward maintaining or improving wildlife habitat values. Appropriate public use opportunities will be identified, and provided where possible.