Located on the southern extreme of the Great Salt Lake Desert, Fish Springs has been a place of essential importance in meeting human and wildlife needs over the past 11,000 years. Most critical are the life-sustaining waters that make Fish Springs a true oasis in the desert.
Ancestral homelands to the nomadic Goshute (Gosiuta) tribe, Fish Springs supplied necessary water and food to the tribe. Established March 10, 1959 by the first land purchase of 2,160 acres, Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge became one of the over 560 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System - a network of lands set aside and managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service specifically for wildlife. Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge was established using proceeds from the sale of Federal Duck Stamps.
Established to provide habitat for migratory birds within the Pacific Flyway, Fish Springs’ wetlands comprise approximately 10,000 acres of its 17,942 total acres. Spring flows are created by artesian pressure and hydrothermal convection along fracture zones in the Great Basin Carbonate Rock and Alluvial Aquifer. The springs discharge approximately 22,000 – 27,000 acre-feet of water per year, most of which is recharged from areas outside the Fish Springs Flat.
Each unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System is established to serve a statutory purpose that targets the conservation of native species dependent on its lands and waters. All activities on those acres are reviewed for compatibility with this statutory purpose.
Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge was established for use as an unaltered sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds.
Since 1934, Fish Springs was studied several times as a possible refuge; however, it was not seriously considered until 1958 when the acquisition of the land was approved to establish a National Wildlife Refuge.
Fish Springs area played a part in many important historic activities including being a home and resupplying spot for the nomadic Goshute, and the resupplying post for the Pony Express, Central Overland Stage, and the Lincoln Highway.
Other Facilities in this Complex
Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge and Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge have similar habitat conservation needs, and combining these areas assists in providing consistency and effectively uses human and capital resources for both locations.