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.
Eagle Day 2024 - Sunday, April 28th - 12pm to 4pm

Join us for Eagle Day! A celebration of the spectacular spring migration through Sand Lake Refuge. Free event, fun for all ages. 

Sunday, April 28th from 12pm to 4pm

Sand Lake Refuge Headquarters (39650 Sand Lake Dr, Columbia SD 57433)

Click the link below for more information on activities and presentations planned. Hope to see you there!

Eagle Day 2024 Flyer

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 birds and other wildlife. The Fish and Wildlife Service acquires waterfowl production areas under the authority of the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act, primarily using funds from the sale of Federal Duck Stamps. The Refuge System’s 38 wetland management districts comprise thousands of waterfowl production areas – almost all in the Prairie Pothole Region of the Northern Great Plains.

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 Pothole Region states of Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.

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

      Sand Lake NWR Conditions & Migration Report

      04/04/2024 Sand Lake NWR area Migration Report:

      Sand Lake NWR is holding approximately 15,000 Snow Geese.  However, this number seems to be changing daily.  Some days there are more, some days less.  Large groups of Snow Geese have also been observed using other northeastern Brown County wetlands.

      Waterfowl watchers will find all the duck  and dark geese species using the Refuge and surrounding habitats.

      Many Eagles can been seen around the Refuge.  There are also several Eagle nests scattered on and around the Refuge.

      The Refuge is now mostly ice free and it appears it will be staying that way as above freezing temperatures and rain are in the forecast for the next 10 days, so we anticipate the bulk of the Snow Goose migration will be over during this time.

      Unless a major change occurs, this will be the last migration report until this fall.



      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

      A bright blue sky obstructed by fluffy white clouds reflected off of a stream shot from inside a kayak
      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 570 refuges spanning the country, this system protects iconic species and provides some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities on Earth.

      Projects and Research