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Lake Zahl
National Wildlife Refuge

A glowing orange sky silhouettes a small group of waterfowl feeding and resting along the shore of Lake Zahl.
30 Miles North of Williston
Zahl, ND   58856
E-mail: CrosbyWetlands@fws.gov
Phone Number: 701-965-6488
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Lake Zahl National Wildlife Refuge at sunset.
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Lake Zahl National Wildlife Refuge

Lake Zahl NWR was established in 1939 as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife. The Refuge encompasses a total of 3,739 acres. Lake Zahl NWR lies at the juncture of the Missouri Coteau and the Missouri Slope. Water flowing from Lake Zahl enters the Little Muddy River, goes into Lake Sakakawea, and then enters the Missouri River approximately 28 miles south of the Refuge. Lake Zahl is not staffed; it is managed by the Crosby Wetland Management District staff.

Getting There . . .
The Refuge is divided by State Highway 50, 0.5 miles west of its juncture with State Highway 85, 30 miles north of Williston, North Dakota. The Refuge is accessible from State Highway 50 and county and township roads that border the unit.

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Wildlife and Habitat

The Refuge is mostly native prairie habitat that surrounds two large semi-permanent marshes. The mixed-grass prairie habitat provides nesting areas for waterfowl and a wide range of passerines. Large numbers of waterfowl as well as variety of other marsh and waterbirds use the Refuge marshes during spring and fall migration. The Refuge has been a successful reintroduction area for giant Canada geese.

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The Lake Zahl area was homesteaded in the late 1800s and early 1900s; farming was the primary land use during that era. Lake Zahl NWR was established in 1939, following the Great Depression and extreme drought of the 1930s. Land purchasing continued through the 1940s.

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Management Activities
The Refuge is managed primarily as a nesting and resting area for waterfowl and other migratory birds. The Refuge uplands are managed using rotational grazing and prescribed burning to provide a diversity of prairie habitat.

Former croplands are managed as seeded grass cover that is either hayed or farmed periodically. A small area of cropland remains in a cropping rotation to provide food to wildlife.

Periodic drawdowns of the two water impoundments are done periodically to expose wetland soils and stimulate aquatic plant growth. However, drawdowns are seldom necessary due to natural fluctuations in the impoundment levels.