View of Lake Darling crossing at Greene ND.
The Wildlife Refuge
The 1930's brought drought to the Great Plains and disaster to waterfowl. Populations of ducks plummeted to all time lows and conservationists began to act. A flamboyant political cartoonist from Iowa, Jay N. Ding Darling, became director of the newly formed Bureau of Biological Survey and chose J. Clark Salyer as his top aide.

Darling helped push the Duck Stamp Act through Congress in 1934, requiring every waterfowl hunter 16 years and over to annually purchase and carry a Federal Duck Stamp. Proceeds from the sale of Duck Stamps were earmarked to buy and lease waterfowl habitat.

In 1935, Salyer used Duck Stamp receipts to purchase three refuges, including Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge, on the loop of the Souris River. Two groups, the Civilian Conservation Corp and Works Project Administration, provided large labor force which built dikes, roads, fences, and water control structure on these refuges. Men were hired locally as well as from other states. Camp Maurek, a military style camp located on Upper Souris National Refuge, housed as many as 250 men.

Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge lies in the beautiful Souris River Valley of north western North Dakota and extends for nearly 30 miles along the River. This 32,000 acre Refuge, managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, is an important unit in a series of national wildlife refuges in the great waterfowl migration corridor known as the Central Flyway.

Managing for Wildlife
The purpose for establishing the Refuge in 1935 was ... as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife ... The Refuge habitat is managed for diversity to provide the life requirements of all wildlife. Grasslands are periodically grazed, hayed, burned, and rested to provide good nesting and escape cover for wildlife and to rejuvenate the vegetation.

Lake Darling, a 10,000 acre lake named in honor of Ding Darling, is the largest of several water impoundment's on the Refuge. Its primary purpose is to furnish a regulated supply of water to smaller marshes downstream and especially to the larger marshes on the J. Clark Salyer Refuge, 110 miles downstream. The lake is designed to hold a two year supply of water to safeguard marshes downstream against the threat of drought. The dam also makes is possible to reduce flooding and to regulate releases during periods of low flow. Both operations benefit people in the valley below the dam.

The proper management of water permits an active fisheries program on the Refuge. This is a cooperative effort between the Refuge and the Missouri River Fish and Wildlife Management Assistance Office. Northern pike, walleye, yellow perch, and smallmouth bass may be caught in the lake and Souris River.

One successful Refuge management program has been the re-establishment of a resident Canada goose flock. These magnificent birds were once common, but they gradually disappeared with loss of habitat due to changes in land use. The first honkers were reintroduced in 1940 and the flock has grown to about 250 birds.

Wildlife and Waterfowl
Waterfowl numbering up to 350,000 can be seen during spring and fall migrations. Tundra swans along with pintail, canvas-backs, redheads, buffleheads, and other waterfowl either nest on the Refuge or use the Refuge during migration. Up to five species of grebes have been seen on the Refuge during the summer.

Several colonies of nesting cormorants and great blue herons use tree groves near the lake. White pelicans also use the Refuge as a loafing area but do not nest here.

Serious birders will also be able to find Baird's, LeConte's, and sharp tailed sparrows, as well as Spraque's pipit.

Whitetaile Deer are common on the Refuge and an occasional antelope can be seen on the hills above the valley. Rare sightings of elk and moose have also been made. Muskrats are common and careful observation will reveal the tracks of raccoons and mink.

Wildlife Observation
The Refuge offers a wide range of activities by which visitors can become better acquainted with wildlife. Opportunities for viewing and studying wildlife and plants, walking, photography, berry picking, and cross country skiing are available along the 3.5 mile Prairie-Marsh Scenic Drive, hiking trails, and other open public use areas. However, for your safety these activities are not permitted during the Refuge rifle deer season. Canoeing can be enjoyed on several designated canoe routes. In the spring, photo blinds provide an opportunity for close up viewing and photographing the extraordinary dance of sharp tailed grouse. Picnic tables and grills are also provided at several locations for your use.

Visiting The Refuge
Upper Souris is a special place for wildlife and people. Yet, as a Wildlife Refuge, it is a place where the needs of wildlife come first. To ensure that this happens, regulations have been established to provide wildlife and their habitats with adequate protection from visitors. Although these regulations may be inconvenient to some or seem overly restrictive, they are necessary to protect wildlife populations and habitat and, in some instances, to safeguard visitors.

Visitors are responsible for knowing the Refuge regulations listed in our brochures and on our signs. By observing these rules, visitors will make the Refuge a better place for themselves and the wildlife they come to enjoy. The Refuge is open daily form 5:00 am to 10:00 pm for your use.

Use of horses are permitted with permission of the Refuge Manager. Dogs may be walked if they are on a leash.

Hunting and Fishing
Hunting and fishing are permitted in certain areas under special Federal and State regulations.

The Pack Your Trash Home program is used on the Refuge; trash cans are not provided.

Prohibited Activities
The following activities are not permitted because they are either unsafe, are not consistent with Refuge goals, or are unlawful:

Office/Visitor Center
Interpretive exhibits and a book sales outlet at the Office/Visitor Center allow visitors to learn more about the Refuge and its management. Refuge brochures covering fishing, hunting, canoe trails, the scenic drive, mammals, birds, and native grasses are also available at the Office/Visitor Center, as well as the information site southwest of the dam.

Accessible Opportunities
The Office/Visitor Center and the rest rooms at Landing 3 are wheelchair accessible. The Outlet Fishing area has wheelchair accessible table, grills, and a fishing pier, as well as rest rooms, sidewalks, and parking. The Prairie-marsh Scenic Drive has a wheelchair accessible overlook of the beautiful Souris River Valley.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service seeks to afford persons with disabilities full accessibility or reasonable accommodation. Contact the Office/Visitor Center for information or to address accessibility problems. For the hearing impaired, use your State Relay System for the Deaf.

Administration and Location
The Refuge is administered and managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior. The Office/Visitor Center is located southeast of Lake Darling dam and can be reached by traveling on Highway 52 to Foxholm, ND and then north on County Road 11 for 7 miles, or traveling on Highway 83 north of Minot 18 miles and west 1 mile on County Road 6. Office/Visitor Center hours are 8:00 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday.

For further information: Write the Refuge Manager, Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge, RR#1 Box 163, Foxholm, ND 58718. Phone (701) 468-5467, or E-mail us here to request more information.