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Rice Lake
National Wildlife Refuge

pair of ring-necked ducks with water and cattails behind
36289 State Highway 65
McGregor, MN   55760
E-mail: ricelake@fws.gov
Phone Number: 218-768-2402
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Rice Lake is known for its tremendous number of ring-necked ducks.
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Archeological surveys have identified pre-historic linear burial mounds on the refuge. These mounds constitute the largest concentration of mounds in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Dakota, and later Ojibwe, Indians also came to these lands each fall to harvest wild rice and lived in temporary camps near the lake. Today, members of the Ojibwe band still gather wild rice on the lake.

Pioneers first came to the lake in the late 1800s. Loggers cleared the white and red pine from the refuge and floated the logs across Rice Lake to a sawmill. From here, the logs were floated down the Rice River and into the Mississippi River 20 miles to the west.

In 1900, a livestock ranch began operating next to the lake and attempts were made to drain Rice Lake to allow for harvesting of the marsh grass to make carpets. The attempts to drain the lake proved unsuccessful.

In 1910, a branch of the Soo Line Railroad, known as the Cuyuna and Iron Range, was constructed. The line did not last long and, in the 1920s, was abandoned.

In 1935, the refuge was established, and lands were purchased. In 1939, a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp was built on the refuge, and men began working on construction and habitat projects. One of their first projects was removing the rail-line and converting the railroad bed into a road. Today, this road serves as the main entrance and wildlife drive of the refuge. The CCC camp was dismantled in 1941.

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