Egret and Ibis at Lacreek NWR

Nearly 12 million people visit outdoor areas each year to photograph wildlife, and National Wildlife Refuges naturally are at the top of the list. Refuges provide enhanced opportunities to photograph wildlife in natural habitats by providing platforms, brochures, interpreters, viewing areas, and tour routes. Wildlife photography is a high-priority activity in the Refuge System. 

Lacreek NWR offers excellent opportunities for wildlife observation and photography. Abundant habitat, water in an arid landscape, and light visitation provides an opportunity for a good sighting around every corner throughout the year. During the winter, large concentrations of trumpeter swans, Canada geese, and mallards can be found utilizing the open water provided by the spring flows and the natural foods grown in the wetlands during the growing season.

Many visitors are surprised to find large numbers of waterfowl remain, when the rest of the northern Great Plains has completely frozen over. Large numbers of migratory birds return in the spring on their migration north. Some stay to nest here, including blue winged teal, mallards, American white pelicans, great blue herons, snowy egrets, long-billed curlews, burrowing owls, short-eared owls, northern harriers and bobolinks to name a few.

During the heat of the summer, most wildlife restricts their activities to the cooler morning and evening hours. Listen for dickcissels, grasshopper sparrows, and lark sparrows calling in the grasslands. You might find an American bittern, great blue heron, or black crowned night heron slowly hunting the shallows looking for a wetland meal. As summer fades into fall, shorebirds, raptors, waterfowl, and other species of birds begin their migration south. Many stop in at the Refuge to spend a day or a month. Some will spend the winter here. 

The entire Refuge is open to wildlife observation and photography. A few developed roads and trails exist, and you can often spot wildlife by driving the auto tour route slowly or taking a quiet walk on one of the designated trails. For visitors interested in exploring the rest of the Refuge, a number of Refuge dikes used to control water levels provide great opportunities for hiking. Vehicles are restricted to the designated roads. For more information about wildlife observation opportunities at Lacreek NWR, please contact the Refuge.

A great way to see wildlife and take pictures is along our auto tour route or one of our walking trails.