About the Refuge

Refuge with tower 512 x 219

Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge lies in the beautiful Souris River Valley of northwestern North Dakota and extends for nearly 35 miles along the River.

Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is one of over 540 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System - a network of lands set aside and managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service specifically for wildlife. The Refuge System is a living heritage, conserving wildlife and habitat for people today and generations to come. Upper Souris NWR lies in the beautiful Souris River Valley of northwestern North Dakota and extends for nearly 35 miles along the Souris River corridor. This 32,092-acre Refuge, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is an important unit in a series of national wildlife refuges in the great waterfowl migration corridor known as the Central Flyway.

The purpose for establishing the Refuge in 1935 was "...as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife..."  The Refuge habitat is managed for diversity to provide the life requirements of all wildlife. Grasslands are periodically grazed, hayed, burned and rested to provide good nesting and escape cover for wildlife and to rejuvenate the vegetation.  

Lake Darling, a 9,600-acre lake named in honor of Ding Darling, is the largest of several water impoundments on the Refuge. Its primary purpose is to furnish a regulated supply of water to smaller marshes downstream and especially to the larger marshes on the J. Clark Salyer Refuge, 110 miles downstream. The lake is designed to hold a two-year supply of water to safeguard marshes downstream against the threat of drought. The dam also makes it possible to reduce the flooding and to regulate releases during periods of low flow. Both operations benefit people in the valley below the dam. 

The proper management of water permits an active fisheries program on the Refuge. This is a cooperative effort between the Refuge and the Missouri River Fish and Wildlife Management Assistance Office. Northern pike, walleye, yellow perch and smallmouth bass may be caught in the lake and Souris River.  

One successful Refuge management program has been the reestablishment of a resident Canada goose flock. These magnificent birds were once common, but they gradually disappeared with loss of habitat due to change in land use. The first "honkers" were reintroduced in 1940 and the flock has grown to about 250 birds. 




Upper Souris is a special place for wildlife and people. Yet, as a Wildlife Refuge, it is a place where the needs of wildlife come first. To ensure that this happens, regulations have been established to provide wildlife and their habitats with adequate protection from visitors. Although these regulations may be inconvenient to some or seem overly restrictive, they are necessary to protect wildlife populations and habitat and, in some instances, to safeguard visitors.  

Visitors are responsible for knowing the Refuge regulations listed in our brochures and on our signs. By observing these rules, visitors will make the Refuge a better place for themselves and the wildlife they come to enjoy. The Refuge is open daily from 5:00 AM to 10:00 PM.
Interpretive exhibits and a book sales outlet at the Office/Visitor Center allow visitors to learn more about the Refuge and its management. Refuge brochures covering fishing, hunting, canoe trails, the scenic drive, mammals, birds and native grasses are available at the Office/Visitor Center, as well as the information site southwest of the dam. 

The Office/Visitor Center and the rest rooms at Landing #3 are wheelchair accessible. The Outlet Fishing Area has wheelchair accessible tables, grills and a fishing pier, as well as rest rooms, sidewalks and parking. The Prairie-Marsh Scenic Drive has a wheelchair accessible overlook of the beautiful Souris River Valley. The bridge and part of the shoreline at the Grano Crossing is wheelchair accessible.


More information and a map can be found in our Upper Souris NWR general brochure