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

Sand Lake
National Wildlife Refuge

A large flock of mallards lifts off from a wetland already teeming with other water birds.
39650 Sand Lake Drive
Columbia, SD   57433
E-mail: sandlake@fws.gov
Phone Number: 605-885-6320
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
Between deep blue potholes of water and scattered pieces of wild prairie lies one of South Dakota's treasures, Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
Gray horizontal line
  Recreation and Education Opportunities

Environmental Education
Sand Lake NWR offers year-round on-and off-refuge educational opportunities for teachers and their students. The Refuge provides an ideal setting for outdoor classrooms and field trips during the spring, summer, and fall. Most trips are teacher-led; however, Refuge staff is available to assist with planning your visit and may be available to assist you during your field trip. Sand Lake NWR has a variety of interactive K-12 learning materials that are available for loan to you and your classroom free of charge. Many of our materials also meet science, math, and social studies state curriculum learning standards.

Sport fishing is allowed year-round at five locations on the Refuge. Walleye, northern pike, and other rough fish are popular with most anglers. All South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks fishing regulations apply as well as Special Refuge Regulations. Please consult the South Dakota Fishing Handbook for further information or contact the Refuge staff for a Refuge Sport Fishing brochure. No boating is allowed and ice shacks must be removed daily.

Sand Lake NWR offers something for almost all hunters whether you're interested in big game, upland game, or waterfowl. Refuge white-tailed deer hunts include archery, muzzle-loader, and rifle seasons. Upland game hunters can try their hand at pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse, and partridge. A variety of ducks and geese are available to waterfowl hunters. Hunting is walk-in only and an accessible hunting blind is available. Please contact Refuge staff for more information and complete regulations.

A variety of interpretive materials are available to visitors to enhance their visit to the Refuge. A wide range of pamphlets, including the primary Refuge brochure, a birding checklist, and an auto tour route guide, are available. Several interpretive kiosks around the Refuge provide visitors with information about wildlife, habitat, and management techniques. A visitor center offers wildlife displays, exhibits, and general information. The Refuge also has two observation towers, a hiking trail, and two recreation areas.

Wildlife Observation
Sand Lake NWR hosts more than 266 bird species, 40 mammal species and a variety of fish, reptiles, and amphibians. It has received designation as a "Wetland of International Importance," a "Globally Important Bird Area," and is listed as one of the "Top 15 Birding Sites" in the country by Birders World. It also is home to the largest nesting colony of Franklin's gulls in the world!

Spring and fall concentrations of migratory birds number in the millions and viewing opportunities can be spectacular! The Wildlife Drive, a 15-mile seasonal auto tour route, travels through the heart of the Refuge and gets you up-close and personal with the wildlife. Waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, songbirds, and just about anything in between can be seen at Sand Lake NWR.

Wildlife photographers from all over the country migrate to Sand Lake NWR to photograph its landscapes and intense concentrations of wildlife. Deep blue water, auburn skies, and an endless landscape make the Refuge a paradise for those who capture it by lens. Although the Refuge has no permanent blinds, you may set up temporary daily blinds.

Sand Lake NWR is open daylight hours only. The visitor center and office are open year-round, Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 4:30 pm, and is closed on Federal holidays. Refuge roads and gates are open from April to mid-October (weather dependent).

Entrance Fees
The Refuge does not charge an entrance fee.

Use Fees
The Refuge does not charge user fees (i.e., hunt fees, camping fees, boat launch, meeting rooms rental fees, auto tour fees, guided tour fees, etc.).
- Refuge Profile Page -