Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge

Quick Facts

Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge

Minnesota

(218) 449-4115

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge is located in northwest Minnesota. Packs of wolves, moose, waterfowl, and 280 species of birds make this refuge a wildlife wonderland. The refuge, originally named Mud Lake Migratory Waterfowl Refuge, was established in 1937 primarily for waterfowl production and maintenance. Located in eastern Marshall County, the contiguous 61,500 acres are situated in the aspen parkland region of northwest Minnesota. This area is a transition zone, where coniferous forests, tallgrass prairie, and the prairie pothole region of the Red River Valley meet. The refuge lies in the bed of glacial Lake Agassiz, resulting in a very flat terrain, and is dominated by expansive wetlands.

A diversity of wildlife species inhabit the refuge, including 287 bird species, 49 mammals, 12 amphibians, and nine reptiles. A large Franklin's gull colony of approximately 20,000 breeding pairs is located on the refuge. The refuge supports 17 species of breeding ducks totaling an annual average of 7,100 pairs. Canada geese and trumpeter swans also nest here. In 2004 the first pair of trumpeter swans nested on the refuge. A second pair nested in 2006. In 1992, after a 30-year absence, bald eagles began re-nesting on the refuge. Five pairs nested in 2006. Sandhill cranes are summer nesting residents on the refuge. Peak fall migration is in late September-early October.

Agassiz is one of only a few refuges with resident packs of gray wolves in the lower 48 states. The resident moose herd of approximately 100 animals has long attracted refuge visitors from many states and countries. In 1976, 4,000 acres of the refuge were designated a Wilderness Area. Each year over 20,000 visitors enjoy wildlife viewing on Agassiz Refuge's self-guided auto tour route and hiking trails. Historically, this area was a paradise for waterfowl and other wildlife. In 1910, in an effort to improve farming operations, an extensive drainage project was approved by Marshall County. By 1933, approximately one million dollars had been spent trying to drain the Mud Lake area. Farming proved unsuccessful. Marshall County become so tax delinquent that the State Legislature protected the County from bankruptcy but, in return, retained the right to use the lands for conservation purposes. The State negotiated the land transfer to the National Wildlife Refuge System in 1937.

Today, Agassiz is composed of 40,100 acres of wetlands, 10,000 acres of shrublands, 7,000 acres of forestland, 4250 acres of grassland, and 150 acres of cropland. The Wilderness Area encompasses one of the most westerly extensions of black spruce-tamarack bog in Minnesota. Two lakes in the area were formed by deep peat fires which occurred prior to settlement of the area.

Map of Agassiz NWR

Latitude, Longitude: 48.285934, -96.032181

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Activities

  • Bird Watching

    Observe many kinds of birds!

  • Auto/Motorcycle

    Lost Bay Habitat Drive is a four-mile, self-guided, auto drive. The four-mile habitat drive, Marshall County Road 7, and roads bordering the refuge provide ample wildlife viewing opportunities. In addition, one observation tower and one deck are located on Marshall County Road 7. To access the tower a key has to be checked out during office hours.

  • Hiking

    There are three walking trails: two are universally accessible trails, being 0.5-mile and 0.7-mile, and another is 0.25-miles. There is a wildlife observation blind along the two longer trails. Headquarters Hiking Trail is a half-mile, self-guided, foot trail. Interpretive kiosks are located on Marshall County Road 7 and at refuge headquarters.

  • Hunting

    Deer hunting is allowed in accordance with Minnesota's deer firearm season regulations and special refuge regulations. An accessible stand is available upon request.

  • Wildlife Watching

    Packs of wolves, moose, waterfowl, and 294 species of birds make this refuge a wildlife wonderland. Agassiz is listed as one of the top 50 wildlife viewing areas in the lower 48 states and one of the best 100 birding sites in North America. The refuge is one of 45 birding sites along the Minnesota Pineto Prairie Birding Trail extending between Fergus Falls and Warroad. Wildlife viewing is best from May to October. The four-mile habitat drive, Marshall County Road 7, and roads bordering the refuge provide ample wildlife viewing opportunities. In addition, one observation tower and one deck are located on Marshall County Road 7. To access the tower a key has to be checked out during office hours. There are three walking trails: two are universally accessible trails, being 0.5 mile and 0.7 mile, and another is 0.25 miles. There is a wildlife observation blind along the two longer trails.

Seasonality/Weather

The refuge hosts an annual open house in the summer. Each September the public is invited to help with capturing and banding ducks. The Wildlife Drive/Outdoor Facilities are open daily from May through October, dawn to dusk.

Directions

Driving

The refuge headquarters is located on Marshall County Road 7. From Thief River Falls, Minnesota, take Highway 32 North for 12 miles to the town of Holt. At Holt, turn east onto Marshall County Road 7 for 11 miles. The refuge headquarters is located on the left (north) side of the road.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(218) 449-4115

Links