About the Refuge

Slade NWR Sign

Slade National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is located in south-central Kidder County, approximately 20 miles northeast of the Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge Complex headquarters. The Slade NWR was established as a sanctuary and management area for migratory birds. The Refuge consists of 3,000 acres of gently rolling prairie dotted by lakes and marshes that were formed by glacial action. The primary habitat includes more than 900 acres of wetlands and smaller potholes along with uplands that have been restored to planted native grasses and forbs. Management strives to provide quality stopover and breeding habitat for migratory birds and foster a greater understanding and appreciation of habitat conservation and restoration within an agricultural landscape.


Slade NWR has been a part of the Dawson community since 1940 when George T. Slade donated his hunting club to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Mr. Slade was an executive of the Northern Pacific Railroad and moved to the Dawson area in 1910. During his initial visits he lived in a railroad car. He was attracted to the area by the tremendous numbers of waterfowl and excellent hunting opportunities. In 1922, Mr. Slade began purchasing land around Harker Lake, 3 miles south and 1 mile east of Dawson. Some of the lands acquired were from the original homesteaders. Mr. Slade continued to purchase land in the 1930’s that became part of his hunting club. In 1924, a house was moved from one of the properties purchased and relocated to the north edge of Harker Lake. The building was used as the initial hunting lodge. Around 1925, a second larger hunting lodge was constructed at the site.

During the drought years of the 1930’s, Mr. Slade maintained resting and feeding areas for waterfowl and also tilled land to plant food for wildlife. In 1935 when the marshes began to dry up, a large well was dug between Harker and Upper Harker lakes complete with an electric pump. The pumps directed water into the lakes through a system of pipes and flumes. The drought conditions resulted in small crop yields, so Mr. Slade shipped in large quantities of grain to feed the thousands of birds attracted to the site. The pump, motor, and electric cable were later removed and used in the war effort during World War II.

Mr. Slade died in 1941 and willed his 3,000 acre club to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be used as a refuge. The Refuge was thus named Slade National Wildlife Refuge. Through the years, the primary function of the Refuge has been to provide habitat for nesting and migrating waterfowl. Management practices have included farming, grazing, haying, burning and planting nesting cover.

In 1968, the Refuge started a propagation project with Giant Canada geese. This was a cooperative project performed with Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center at Jamestown and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. The purpose of the project was to re-establish a breeding population of geese in central North Dakota. Prior to this endeavor, the last known breeding geese in Kidder County were seen in 1925 on Lake Isabel.

The Refuge received 143 hand-reared geese in 1969 that produced 97 goslings the first year. During the next three years, 361 goslings were raised at the Refuge. Starting in 1971, nesting geese were observed on sites off the Refuge indicating the birds were successfully moving onto the surrounding area. Following additional releases in locations throughout central North Dakota, the re-establishment of Giant Canada Geese was successful.