Welcome to Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge! This area of South Dakota is in the heart of the prairie–pothole region of the northern Great Plains and plays a major role for migratory birds associated with the Central Flyway. Located in north-central South Dakota, these lands and waters are vitally important to the nation’s migratory bird populations. Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge was designated a Globally Important Bird Area by the American Bird Conservancy and a Wetland of International Importance.

Although most refuge lands and outdoor spaces have remained open for the public to enjoy, we ask that you Recreate Responsibly.

  • Check local conditions on this website and call ahead for current information.
  • Operations vary based on local public health conditions.
  • Consistent with CDC recommendations, people who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces.
  • Most importantly, stay home if you feel sick and continue to watch for symptoms of COVID-19 and follow CDC guidance on how to protect yourself and others.

Visit Us

This 21,498-acre refuge includes Sand Lake, a 11,450-acre lake created by the last ice age. Each spring and fall, thousands of waterfowl and other waterbirds migrate through this region, taking advantage of the food found in the nutrient-laden wetlands. The wetland management district wetland management district
A wetland management district is a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office that manages waterfowl production areas in one or more counties. Waterfowl production areas are small natural wetlands and grasslands that provide breeding, resting and nesting habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds, grassland…

Learn more about wetland management district
, which includes 8 north central South Dakota counties, is comprised of 43,000 acres of Waterfowl Production Areas. Since waterfowl production area waterfowl production area
Waterfowl production areas are small natural wetlands and grasslands within the National Wildlife Refuge System that provide breeding, resting and nesting habitat for millions of waterfowl, shorebirds, grassland birds and other wildlife. Virtually all waterfowl production areas are in the Prairie…

Learn more about waterfowl production area
lands are purchased with outdoor enthusiasts' dollars, they are managed so that the public may use them for a variety of activities. These include hunting, hiking, photography, wildlife observation, outdoor education, and interpretation.

Location and Contact Information

      About Us

      The marshes and open water impoundments of the refuge are surrounded by prairie grasslands, cultivated fields, and scattered woodlands along the James River. The wetlands, marshes, open lakes, and grasslands of the refuge are home to more than 266 bird species, 40 mammal species, and a variety of fishes, reptiles, and amphibians. Fall migrations of snow geese may reach peaks of 500,000 individuals, whereas the spring migration has been documented at more than 1.2 million. In addition, more than 123 different bird species nest and raise their young on the refuge.

      What We Do

      Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge serves as a breeding and resting ground for migratory birds of all types. Providing quality habitat helps the refuge meet these needs. 

      Our Organization

      The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages an unparalleled network of public lands and waters called the National Wildlife Refuge System. With more than 560 refuges spanning the country, this system protects iconic species and provides some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities on Earth.

      Projects and Research