• White Pelicans / USFWS

    Life on the Salt

    The salt flats may be devoid of vegetation but they are rich in wildlife. While some birds nest here, others feed on salt brine flies.

    Wildlife & Habitat

  • Hourglass selenite crystal / John Betts ©

    Unique to the Refuge

    Selenite crystals can grow the length of a pencil and weigh up to 38 pounds. Dig deep and find one!

    Digging for Crystals

  • Presentation for students / USFWS

    Enjoy, Explore, Learn

    Educators – bring your indoor classroom outside. The refuge is a great place to learn about science, math, art, history and more.

  • Turtle floating / Jenny and Oliver Davis ©

    For Wildlife & You

    National Wildlife Refuges are managed for wildlife and habitat and to ensure future generations will always have wild places to explore!

    Visitor Activities


Conservation White-tailed Deer Hunts

Public Hunting Area on Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge will be closed during below dates for White-tailed deer controlled hunts. November 1-6, 2019 November 12-14, 2019 November 18-20, 2019 December 2-5, 2019

Weekly Waterfowl Survey

Each week, September through March, staff performs a waterfowl survey on Tuesday mornings. Click following link for most current survey.

Waterfowl Surveys

Selenite Crystals


April 1 through October 15 the crystal digging area at the refuge will be open for visitors. It is open daily, from sunrise to sunset, and it is free. Bring the family out to the refuge and harvest your own selenite crystals (the state crystal of Oklahoma) and create memories that will last a lifetime. Address to the digging area gate is: 66003 Garvin Road, Cherokee, OK

Crystal Digging
Featured Stories

Did You Know?

Western snowy plover mother and chick / USFWS

Snowy plovers nest on the refuge’s salt flats where the female uses pebbles and skeletons of invertebrates to line the nest and vegetation to keep the eggs warm. Chicks are very independent and will leave the nest within hours of hatching. Parents train the young to watch for predators and signal them to lie flat on the ground when danger is near. The snowy plover’s favorite meal is succulent brine flies found in the salt lake. These tiny bugs are nutrient-rich and help quench the bird’s thirst. When the flies dive into the salty waters, a bubble forms around them that provides oxygen for up to 15 minutes. As the flies swim below, the snowy plover wait along the shore line ready to catch a meal when the flies are forced to surface.

Featured Stories

History of Conservation

President Theodore Roosevelt 150 x 115

In 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt established the Pelican Island Bird Reservation, the first of 53 federal reserves he would create during his time in office and the roots of what is today known as the National Wildlife Refuge System. The 26th president was a dedicated naturalist throughout his life and is considered by many to have been the country’s “Conservationist President.”

History of the Refuge System

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.

Learn more about the NWRS