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Buffalo Lake
National Wildlife Refuge

P.O. Box 179
Umbarger, TX   79091
Phone Number: 806-499-3382
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Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Once buffalo grazed the shortgrass prairies you see today at Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge in the Texas Panhandle. Once a lake reflected the clouds. The buffalo have vanished. The lake has dried. But the shortgrass prairie remains as one of the best in the high plains grassland ecosystem.

In fact, this prairie is so important that 175 acres of it carries the designation of National Natural Landmark. Over 4,000 acres of grasslands are the best you'll see anywhere in the area. Most everywhere else, these native grasslands fell to the plow and with them their wildlife. Here, you'll still see black-tailed prairie dogs perched on mounds and burrowing owls blink in broad daylight.

The shortgrass prairies spill into marshes, woodlands, riparian habitat, croplands, and water-carved canyon walls that together form 7,664 acres of homes for migratory and year-round wildlife.

Getting There . . .
Refuge headquarters may be reached from the east and west by U.S. 60 and from the north and south by Interstate 27 to U.S. 60. The entrance road is located 1.5 miles south of Umbarger, Texas, on F.M. 168. Umbarger is 10 miles west of Canyon, Texas and 20 miles east of Hereford, Texas on U.S. 60, approximately 30 miles southwest of Amarillo, Texas.

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Wildlife and Habitat

Golden eagles hunt for jackrabbits over the grasslands. Bald eagles tend to stay closer to water in search of fish or waterfowl. Trees clustered along the shore act as beacons for migrating songbirds in spring and fall. Finding wildlife at the refuge takes some habitat know how.

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Back in 1937, Buffalo Lake pooled behind Umbarger Dam, built as part of the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act of 1937. Water in a dry land instantly attracted waterfowl along the Central Flyway. The Soil Conservation Service first managed the lake for water conservation, recreation, and as a wildlife sanctuary. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took over on November 6, 1958, recognizing the value for wildlife.

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Environmental Education
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Management Activities
Whether it's tending to trees, restoring vigor to grasslands, flooding Stewart Marsh, or planting wildlife food crops, the refuge staff takes an active role in improving the refuge wildlife habitats.

Elm and cottonwood beside the dry lakebed offer a lush oasis for songbirds in the arid Texas Panhandle. Originally planted by the U.S. Forest Service, the refuge staff now monitors the trees' health and occasionally controls encroaching salt cedar. Shortgrass prairie ecosystems once depended on American bison grazing to keep grasses healthy. Today, the refuge seeks to replicate the bison way of grazing as closely as possible. Cattle graze intensely for a short time and each grazed pasture receives a year's rest before cattle return.

The refuge staff floods Stewart Marsh every spring. As it slowly dries, aquatic plants favored by waterfowl take hold. Just before ducks touch down in the fall, the staff floods the marsh again. The result? Water birds seeking a rest stop find food and shelter waiting for them. Artificial ponds and water tanks offer additional water sources for wildlife.

Farmers and wildlife both reap rewards from cooperative farming in the dry lake bottom. Local farmers keep two-thirds of the crop and the remainder stays on the refuge for wildlife food. The lakebed is farmed in a patchwork of croplands and native plants. Together, they offer nesting and winter cover for wildlife.