Wildlife & Habitat

Green Heron Rick Cantu 512x219

The refuge is an overlay of the Army Corps of Engineer’s Denison Dam Project and is within the upper Washita arm of Lake Texoma.


Here, both the Washita River and Pennington Creek feed the 4,000-acre Cumberland Pool, which is alive with plants and animals invisible to the naked eye. The crappie, sand bass, and channel, flathead and blue catfish do well because of all the nutrients.

These fish are found within the shallow Cumberland Pool and its seasonally flooded mud flats, especially important habitat for great blue and green herons and great and snowy egrets. The long-legged birds can be seen exploring the shallow waters in search of a meal. During spring and fall, thousands of shorebirds can be seen along the lakeshore, while overhead, bald eagles fish the open waters in search of weak or injured birds. In late summer, wading birds like avocets and various sandpipers flock here to feed on food sources exposed by falling water levels.

In addition to the refuge’s nutrient-rich waters, the landscape varies from grasslands to wild plum thickets to oak-hickory-elm woodlands and farm fields planted with crops for wildlife. White-tailed deer emerge by the hundreds from the safety of the forests to join the geese in harvesting the crops planted for wildlife. During summer and spring, the same woods shelter colorful songbirds like painted buntings and summer tanagers that are passing through the refuge or have stopped to nest and raise their young.

Each fall, long skeins of geese choose this refuge as their destination for a winter’s rest before heading north by early March to nest in the tundra. Snow geese, along with thousands of other waterfowl on the Central Flyway, escape the northern freezing temperatures here. They loaf in the safety of the upper Washita arm of Lake Texoma and find nourishing food close by. The ducks tend to disperse to feed in lakes and ponds, while snow and Canada geese nibble grains, wing-to-wing in the croplands.