Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Quick Facts

Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge

South Dakota

(605) 885-6320

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

Congress established Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in 1935 as a "refuge and breeding grounds for migratory birds and other wildlife." The refuge consists of 21,498 acres of prime wildlife habitat, including open lakes and wetlands, grasslands, woodlands, and croplands.

Sand Lake NWR is home to more than 266 bird species, 40 mammal species, and a variety of fish, reptiles, and amphibians. Each spring and fall, millions of migratory birds rest and feed at Sand Lake NWR during their long migrations to and from breeding grounds. More than 123 different bird species nest and raise their young on the refuge. Famed for its spectacular concentrations of wildlife, Sand Lake NWR has been listed as one of the top 15 birding sites in the country. It is also a designated a "Wetland of International Importance" and a "Globally Important Bird Area."

Sand Lake NWR is for people too. Each year more than 75,000 visitors come to the refuge to appreciate its wildlife and reconnect with nature. Wildlife observation, education, photography, hunting, and fishing are all popular activities on the refuge.

Map of Sand Lake NWR

Latitude, Longitude: 45.776623, -98.253136

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Activities

  • Auto/Motorcycle

    The Wildlife Drive is a 15-mile auto tour route that travels through the heart of the refuge, offering excellent wildlife and habitat viewing. A specialized brochure will guide you through 12 stops along the route to help you better understand refuge management and the habitat and wildlife you are seeing. Wildlife Drive is open from April 1 through mid October and may be periodically closed during this time due to weather conditions.

  • Fishing

    Sport fishing is allowed year-round at five locations in the refuge. Walleye, northern pike, and other rough fish are popular sport. All South Dakota state fishing regulations apply as well as special refuge regulations. Boating is not allowed and ice shacks must be removed daily.

    Located on the northern end of the refuge, roughly 5 miles west of Hecla on Brown County 5, the Hecla Day Use Area is an undeveloped but favorite spot among anglers and also offers good birding opportunities.

  • Hiking

    One mile south of refuge headquarters on Brown County 16, the Columbia Day Use Area has a 3/4 mile hiking trail, interpretive kiosks, accessible restrooms, tables, sun shelter, and an excellent view of Sand Lake. It is a great spot to take a hike or do some bird watching.

  • Historic Sites

    The visitor center offers outstanding wildlife displays, exhibits, wildlife-oriented videos, books, and other resources that make it a perfect first stop during your visit. Located at refuge headquarters, the visitor center is open year-round, Monday through Friday. During the spring migration the center may be open some weekends through the support of volunteers. Please call ahead to confirm weekend hours.

  • Hunting

    Sand Lake offers something for big game hunters, upland game hunters, and waterfowl hunters. Refuge white-tailed deer hunts include archery, muzzleloader, and rifle seasons. Upland game hunters can try their hand at Ring-necked Pheasants, Sharp-tailed Grouse, and Grey Partridge. All deer and upland game hunting in the Sand Lake NWR is walk-in only. Hunters may park in designated parking areas and walk from there. Several parking areas are available around the refuge. Waterfowl hunting is allowed in road right of ways surrounding the refuge. Hunters are allowed unarmed retrieval of waterfowl up to 100 yards inside the refuge. All spaced blinds have been removed. All federal and South Dakota game rules and regulations apply as well as special refuge regulations.

Seasonality/Weather

Located at refuge headquarters, the visitor center is open year-round, Monday through Friday. During the spring migration the center may be open some weekends through the support of volunteers. Wildlife Drive is open from April 1 through mid October and may be periodically closed during this time due to weather conditions.

Directions

Driving

Sand Lake NWR is located in the northeast corner of South Dakota, 27 miles northeast of Aberdeen, South Dakota. To get to Sand Lake from Aberdeen, take State Highway 12 east 6 miles to Brown County Highway 16 at Bath Corner. Turn north onto Brown County 16 and follow brown directional signs. The Refuge Headquarters and visitor center is located on Brown County Highway 16 approximately 9 miles north of Columbia, South Dakota.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(605) 885-6320

Links