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Cold Springs History

Cold Springs History

Earth-Filled Dam

Really like history? Fascinated with engineering trivia? Insomnia? This is the page for you. Learn about the making of the Cold Springs NWR and Dam.

History of Cold Springs Refuge & Dam

About the Complex

Mid-Columbia River National Wildlife Refuge Complex

The Mid-Columbia River Refuges are eight refuges within the Columbia Basin.

Cold Springs is managed as part of the Mid-Columbia River National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

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About the NWRS

National Wildlife Refuge System


The National Wildlife Refuge System, within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, manages a national network of lands and waters set aside to conserve America’s fish, wildlife, and plants.

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Of Interest

  • Spring Visit


    We think Cold Springs NWR is an incredible little refuge that few know about or visit. At the risk of too much visitation, we encourage you to plan a spring visit. Cold Springs is a fantastic place to go birdwatching any time of the year, and with the arrival of the spring migrants, it reaches its peak. Colorful warblers are generally passing through, but many will remain to nest. Many of the winter waterfowl will also remain behind, and soon will be followed by packs of all-too-adorable ducklings. Red-winged blackbirds trill and squawk from the reeds, vying for nest sites and mates. Deer and elk, with fawns and calves at their side, are around. Mink, otters, coyotes and other mammals are there for those with the patience to wait quietly. So, set aside a day or two to enjoy Cold Springs National Wildlife Refuge.

  • It's All About The Water


    It’s all about water management at Cold Springs NWR. There are several seasonally flooded wetlands associated with the reservoir and Memorial Marsh, a small, 125-acre managed wetland. Cold Springs Reservoir itself is fed by the natural drainages of Cold Springs Creek and Despain Gulch, but the vast majority of the reservoir water is from a canal linking the reservoir to the Umatilla River. Water management of the reservoir is completely controlled by the Bureau of Reclamation, and reservoirs are managed for irrigation rather than wildlife. As such, the FWS spends considerable effort in moving water around to offset how the BOR manages water. One example is Memorial Marsh, which is associated with Despain Gulch as it feeds into the reservoir. The wetland is managed as a moist soil management area, growing about five acres of millet per year. Because of the careful management of water, Memorial Marsh is heavily used by migrating and nesting ducks. As a result, this area is popular for a variety of recreational pursuits.

Page Photo Credits — American Avocet - Images In The Wild, Barn Owlets - Kevin Keatley, Striped Skunk - Becky Gregory
Last Updated: Mar 17, 2017
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