Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge is located in Aitkin County in east central Minnesota, about five miles south of the community of McGregor. It was established in 1935 to preserve valuable habitat for waterfowl. The most important resource on the refuge is Rice Lake itself, a shallow, 3,600-acre wild rice-producing lake. The refuge has been designated as a Globally Important Bird Area by the American Bird Conservancy due to the importance of the lake and its wild rice as a food source to migrating waterfowl, especially ring-necked ducks.
A wooden double decker observation deck with green grass in the foreground and a blue cloudless sky
Wildlife Drive Open

The Wildlife Drive west of Mandy Lake is open to vehicles for the season! Enjoy the views from your vehicle, bike or on foot.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Speed limit is 25 miles per hour. Give wildlife and other visitors a brake!
  • The section after Twin Lakes is one-way for vehicles and bikes. Plan ahead to have enough time to complete the entire drive.
  • Feel free to stop anywhere you'd like to get a closer look and take in the landscape. That being said, be courteous and pull over to the side to allow other visitors and staff to get around you.
  • Horses, ATVs, UTVs or other off-highway vehicles are not permitted on the wildlife drive or refuge lands.
  • With our crazy spring weather, road conditions will be a work in progress until the frost is totally out of the road and we get warmer days. Please recreate responsibly and respectfully.

Visit Us

The refuge offers people a chance to unplug and relax. Locals can enjoy regular trips to the refuge and enjoy the change of seasons. Those coming from farther away experience a taste of the north woods of Minnesota. Everyone is welcome to enjoy the wide variety of activities available at the refuge.

Location and Contact Information

      About Us

      Every national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
      A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

      Learn more about national wildlife refuge
      was created for a special purpose. Some were created to protect migratory birds, others to protect threatened or endangered species or unique habitats, while others fulfill another special purpose. All activities allowed on refuges must be evaluated to make sure each activity will not conflict with the reason the refuge was founded.

      Rice Lake’s purposes include:

      • Being “as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and wildlife.”
      • Being “an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds.”
      • “Incidental fish and wildlife-oriented recreational development, the protection of natural resources, the conservation of endangered species or threatened species.”
      • “Carrying out the national migratory bird management program.”
      • “For the development, advancement, management, conservation and protection of fish and wildlife resources…” and “…for the benefit of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in performing its activities and services. Such acceptance may be subject to the terms of any restrictive or affirmative covenant, or condition of servitude.”

      Our Species

      The refuge is composed of a variety of wetlands, fens and forest. The northern hardwood forest along the wildlife drive that hosts a variety of breeding birds is dominated by quaking and big-toothed aspens, red and sugar maples, paper birch, basswood and red oak. Refuge wetlands are home to nesting trumpeter swans, migrating ring-necked ducks and busy beavers. Other species to keep an eye out for include bears, porcupines, owls, hawks and foxes.

      The trumpeter swan is a majestic bird, with snowy white feathers; jet-black bill, feet, and legs; and 8-foot wingspan. At close range, a thin orange-red line can be seen on the lower part of the bill. The trumpeter is often confused with the smaller, more northerly tundra swan, especially where...

      FWS Focus

      The American Bittern is a medium-sized heron of approximately 60-85cm in length. Adult plumage is brown with heavy white streaks. A distinguishing feature of this bird is a black streak that extends from the eye down the side of its neck. Males and females are similar in appearance, but males...

      FWS Focus
      In the East, nearly black; in the West, black to cinnamon, with white blaze on chest. A "blue" phase occurs near Yakutat Bay, Alaska, and a nearly white population on Gribble Island, British Columbia, and the neighboring mainland. Snout tan or grizzled; in profile straight or slightly convex. 3...
      FWS Focus