About Us

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. The refuge has also been designated as a State Important Bird Area, as part of the larger McGregor Important Bird Area, by the National Audubon Society.

The refuge continues its important wildlife management role today. Its human history and variety of wildlands and wildlife makes it a fine place to visit, study and enjoy the outdoors. 

Our Mission

The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management and, where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

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.

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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.

The purposes of Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge include:

  • Providing a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and wildlife
  • Providing an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds
  • Providing 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

Our History

1935 - Rice Lake Migratory Waterfowl Refuge is established by Franklin D. Roosevelt

1939 - 1941 - Civilian Conservation Corps Camp BS-3, Company 2705 was active on the refuge and consisted of a 23-building camp. Their mission was the initial development and one of their first projects was to remove rail and ties from the old railroad grade that is now the main refuge road.

1940 - A presidential proclamation changes the name to Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge

1973 - A 1,400-acre unit and the 6.27-acre island in Rice Lake were recommended for further consideration by the Secretary of Interior for wilderness designation. While no action has been taken, the recommended areas have been managed as de facto wilderness since.

Other Facilities in this Complex

Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge is a part of the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge Complex. The complex includes four national wildlife refuges located throughout east central Minnesota, including Sherburne, Crane Meadows, Rice Lake and Mille Lacs national wildlife refuges. These refuges are under shared management, with complex headquarters located in Zimmerman, Minnesota.