U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service logo A Unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System
Banner graphic displaying the Fish & Wildlife Service logo and National Wildlife Refuge System tagline

Grays Lake
National Wildlife Refuge

74 Grays Lake Rd
Wayan, ID   83285 - 5006
E-mail: kenneth_scheffler@fws.gov
Phone Number: 208-574-2755
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
Gray horizontal line
Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge is the largest hardstem bulrush marsh in North America. Located in a high mountain valley near Soda Springs in southeastern Idaho, the refuge and surrounding mountains offer incredible scenic vistas, wildflowers, and fall foliage displays. Lands adjacent to the 19,400-acre refuge are primarily wet meadows and grasslands. Grays Lake Refuge provides breeding habitat for over 200 species of mammals, birds, fish, and amphibians.

The refuge hosts a large nesting population of greater sandhill cranes; as many as 1200 individuals are counted in the valley during migration and staging times. The refuge is a birding destination, and a good area to view the rare trumpeter swans. This near-pristine montane wetland is being threatened by the same type of suburban/rural development that has so heavily impacted nearby Jackson Hole.

Getting There . . .
Grays Lake Refuge is north of Soda Springs, off Route 34. The turnoff is about 27 miles north of Soda Springs, and 21 miles from Freedom, Wyoming.

The turnoff is signed. From the intersection it is about 3 miles north to the refuge office, visitor center, and overlook.

Click here for a map of the Gray's Lake area.

Get Google map and directions to this refuge/WMD from a specified address:

Your full starting address AND town and state OR zip code

Google Maps opens in a new window

NOTE: When using this feature, you will be leaving the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service domain. We do not control the content or policies of the site you are about to visit. You should always check site policies before providing personal information or reusing content.

These driving directions are provided as a general guide only. No representation is made or warranty given as to their content, road conditions or route usability or expeditiousness. User assumes all risk of use.

horizontal line

Wildlife and Habitat

Grays Lake Refuge is 27 miles north of Soda Springs in southeast Idaho. It lies in a high mountain valley at 6,400 feet. Grays "Lake" is actually a large, shallow marsh. It has little open water and is covered with dense vegetation, primarily bulrush and cattail. Wet meadows and grasslands surround the marsh.

Learn More>>

    Recreation and Education Opportunities
Wildlife Observation
Learn More >>

Management Activities
The marsh is a 22,000 acre hardstem bulrush marsh which attracts large numbers of ducks, sandhill cranes, Canada geese and trumpeter swans. Water levels cannot be manipulated because of agreements with local landowners and the Fort Hall Irrigation District. Surrounding the marsh are large wet meadows. These meadows are used by feeding geese and cranes and their broods.

The surrounding fields are managed with grazing, haying, and prescribed burning to provide short foraging habitat. These practices have been investigated through a large research project. Some small grain crops are grown to provide supplemental feed for geese and cranes and to keep them on the refuge, rather than in private croplands.

Management is focused on preventing noxious weeds from degrading native habitats by a variety of methods, including use of insects. Grays Lake's uniqueness as prime crane habitat made the refuge a choice for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to try to boost the population of endangered whooping cranes, a close cousin of the sandhill crane.

Researchers brought whooper eggs in and placed them in sandhill crane nests. Sandhill crane "foster parents" hatched, raised, and guided a generation of young whoopers on their migration south. Ultimately, however, the whoopers did not breed on the refuge, and the Service discontinued the experiment. Efforts to create additional whooping crane flocks are now underway in other parts of North America.