Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge

Quick Facts

Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge


(580) 626-4731

Map Directions

Things To Do


The Salt Plains NWR was established in 1930 as a refuge and breeding ground for birds and has been designated an Important Bird Area and a member of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. It provides habitat for approximately 300 species of birds and 30 species of mammals. The 32,030 acre refuge is divided into almost equal parts of nonvegetated salt flat, open water, and vegetated land (marsh, woods, grasslands, and croplands). The refuge's namesake is designated as the "largest such saline flat in the central lowlands of North America." The 10,000 acre salt flat is only a third of the refuge land, but is where the selenite crystals can be found.

Environmental education is an important activity at the refuge, and numerous programs, materials, and workshops are available for teachers, school groups, scouting groups, and the general public to come learn about the ecosystem of the salt plains. One particularly great resource is the Bonham Pond Outdoor Classroom, which is complete with electricity, tables, exhibit panels and chalkboard. Exhibit panels concentrate on wetlands with emphasis on reptiles and amphibians, aquatic invertebrates, birds, fish and plants. Salt Plains NWR is also involved in the Shorebirds Sister School Program, SSSP. This exciting curriculum uses shorebirds to teach, not only about science, but also about history, geography, mathematics and more. Finally, Salt Plains NWR keeps a collection of education video tapes for public use. Subjects on the tapes vary from eagles, wetlands, invasive species, habitat and more.

Map of Salt Plains NWR

Latitude, Longitude: 36.744662, -98.218117



  • Boating

    Boating is allowed on Great Salt Plains Lake in the refuge.

  • Bird Watching

    As a major migration rest area for hundreds of thousands of birds during spring, summer, and fall, the Salt Plains protects and manages a diversity of habitat. Migrants feed on the salt brine flies that hatch when water is available. Peak fall and spring migration of ducks, geese, and sandhill cranes on the refuge can number nearly 100,000 birds. You are requested to report sightings of species not on the refuge checklist or if they are listed as rare or accidental.

    Snowy plovers can be found throughout the crystal digging area. Interior least terns and American avocets are mostly seen along the streams. The birds will use the dig holes and consume the brine flies that hatch in the water in the dig holes after you have left the site.

  • Auto/Motorcycle

    The Harold F. Miller Auto Tour Route is a 2.5-mile driving trail that meanders by refuge ponds and farm fields where deer and waterfowl abound. The habitat and wildlife change throughout the year, giving repeat visitors something different to enjoy each visit. The short quarter-mile walk to Casey Marsh Tower (Stop #9) is an outstanding area for ducks, geese, and eagles during late fall and winter. Interpretive brochure available.

  • Fishing

    The Great Salt Plains Lake is well known as the premier lake in northwest Oklahoma for excellent channel cat fishing. The Byron State Fish Hatchery regularly stocks the lake with channel catfish, hybrid striped bass and saugeye.

    Fishing is allowed at Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge beginning April 1 through October 15 annually. In addition to refuge regulations, all Oklahoma state fishing regulations apply.

  • Hiking

    The .35-mile Sandpiper Trail takes visitors to the edge of the refuge's salt flats where streams, flats and prairie provide excellent shorebird habitat. At the end of the trail are information panels on shorebird identification, migration, and management. A short observation platform and spotting scope assists visitors in viewing the abundance of shorebirds present during spring and fall migrations.

    A hike on the 1.25-mile Eagle Roost Nature Trail gives visitors a chance to enjoy a wide variety of wildlife and habitats. An interpretative brochure is available as well as identification signs for several plant species. Turtles, frogs, and snakes enjoy sunning themselves on logs in Eagle Roost Pond. Sand Creek Bay is a good area to observe shore and wading birds during the summer, while ducks, geese, and cranes rest here during the fall and winter.

  • Hunting

    The Salt Plains Refuge maintains a 1200-acre area for public hunting of migratory and upland game birds. Deer hunting on the refuge is by permit drawing only. All other hunting is prohibited and the remainder of the government lands are closed to hunting.

  • Wildlife Watching

    For the pleasure of viewing wildlife, an observation tower is located at the entrance of the selenite crystal digging area. The tower is open year round from sunrise to sunset. During fall months, white pelicans and sandhill cranes can be seen in the area, also an occasional whooping crane may be sighted. In winter, several thousand geese can often be seen along the lake shoreline.

    Many kinds of birds and mammals are found on the refuge year round. Species such as the white-tailed deer, bobwhite quail, and the cardinal are likely to be observed anytime.


Crystal digging is permitted from April 1 through October 15, sunrise to sunset. The digging area is closed from October 16th through March 31st, as the entire refuge is designated critical whooping crane habitat. No exceptions will be made to these dates. Be sure to check out the numerous special events in the refuge, such as the annual Birding and Heritage Festival and National Trails Day.



From the junction of State Highways 11 and 38, go south two miles on Highway 38, then one mile west to the refuge headquarters.

Phone Numbers


(580) 626-4731