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Frozen MarshThe stark landscape is beautiful and dramatic, as the azure sky provides a bold background to the pristine snow-capped Ruby Mountains.  Winter is a wonderful time to capture the refuge in photographs.

Northern Harrier - maleBirds of prey are abundant in the wintertime.  Rough-legged Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks and Northern Harriers are the dominant species, though Golden Eagles, Bald Eagles, and Prairie Falcons may also be seen.  A really lucky observer may even encounter a Peregrine Falcon.  Large flocks of Tundra Swans often join the resident Trumpeter Swans on the refuge in winter, though it takes a keen eye to distinguish between the two species.  Canada Geese enjoy sitting out on the ice and may be heard honking, especially early in the morning.  By driving the boat landing roads on the south end of the refuge one is sure to scare up small flocks of Horned Larks.  

 Collection ditch in winter by Guy WagnerThough portions of the marsh may be frozen, open water can be found in the collection ditch, south marsh, and in larger spring-fed ponds, where waders and waterfowl will congregate.  

Those willing to brave cold temperatures may try their luck at fishing, as the state record rainbow trout was caught here in late winter.  Most fishing at this time of year will be along the collection ditch in which only artificial lures may be used.  

 Porcupine by Rod WittenbergIf you’re lucky enough to be present once the sun sets, stand outside and gaze at the expansive star-studded sky.  Listen for the yips of the resident coyote packs and hoots of the Great-Horned Owls, and feel the crisp cold mountain air on your cheeks.  You’ll realize Ruby Lake NWR is truly a local and national treasure.  

Check weather and road conditions before making the trip – the shorter route via Harrison Pass is sometimes a viable option with a reliable four-wheel drive vehicle, but the longer drive via Secret Pass is always safer.   

Adapted from an article by Sara Ress Wittenberg 

Page Photo Credits — Winter marsh scene by Guy Wagner
Last Updated: Dec 05, 2013
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