About the Refuge


"They tumble out of the sky like maple leaves, side-slipping right and left to lose altitude, feet spraddled toward shouts of welcome below."

Aldo Leopold could easily have been describing the more than 80,000 geese that punctuate the quiet beauty of the 8,075-acre Washita National Wildlife Refuge each winter. Within the refuge, the slow-moving Washita River winds through prairie and farmlands to merge with Foss Reservoir, providing a home and resting area for geese and other waterfowl. Gently rolling hills, ravines, and bottomlands laced with creeks shelter wildlife as common as white-tailed deer and as unusual as the Texas horned lizard.  

The Washita National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1961 under the Fish & Wildlife Coordination Act primarily to provide a resting and feeding area for migrating and wintering waterfowl. The refuge's mixed grass plains of west-central Oklahoma is superimposed on the upper reaches of Foss Reservoir. Canada geese spending winters at Washita NWR thrive on fields of wheat and milo grown especially for them. The hungry birds feed on green wheat first. When the temperatures drop, they shift to the richer milo. Some 2,000 acres of croplands stretch across the flatlands. Local farmers grow crops here, taking part of the harvest and leaving the rest for wildlife.  

This area of western Oklahoma produces a considerable amount of oil and gas. Custer County is located on top of the Anadarko Basin, one of the largest known reserves of natural gas. There are seven active wells on the refuge. 

Download the refuge brochure and fact sheet to learn more.