Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge

Quick Facts

Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge


(218) 847-2641

Map Directions

Things To Do


Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge covers 42,724 acres and lies in the glacial lake country of northwestern Minnesota in Becker County, 18 miles northeast of Detroit Lakes. It was established in 1938 as a refuge breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife. Refuge topography consists of rolling forested hills interspersed with lakes, rivers, marshes, and shrub swamps. Vegetation is diverse due to the refuge's location in the transition zone between northern hardwood and coniferous forests. Historically, the tallgrass prairie extended into the refuge.

Refuge wildlife consists of over 258 species of birds and 50 species of mammals. Bald eagles are common with up to 23 pairs producing as many as 33 young in recent years. Moose and timber wolves are seen occasionally.

The northern half of Tamarac lies within the original White Earth Chippewa Indian Reservation Boundary. Between 1890 and 1930, the refuge's original stands of red and white pine were logged. Settlers followed, but farming never achieved much prominence due to the thick forest, marginal soils and numerous wetlands. Early refuge development was achieved by a Conservation Corps camp in the 1930s and further enhanced in the 1960s by a Job Corps Center.

The Tamarac Wetland Management District is also managed out of this office. Service staff oversee nine conservation easements, totaling 2,880 acres, in Clearwater and Cass counties. Staff assist private landowners with managing their properties to benefit migrating and nesting waterfowl. Technical assistance for wildlife projects is also provided to interested landowners.

Map of Tamarac NWR

Latitude, Longitude: 46.954246, -95.656929



  • Boating

    Canoeing and kayaking are permitted only on lakes open to summer fishing.

  • Bird Watching

    More than 250 species of birds have been seen at the park since 1938. A complete checklist of the birds is available at the park. Bald Eagles can be seen in the forests and aquatic areas of the refuge. Trumpeter Swan are also present within the refuge after a reintroduction in 1987. In mid-May, a wonderful migration of songbirds can be seen. Migration of water fowl can be seen in late fall. 42% of the world's golden-winged warbler population is found in Minnesota and much of their habitat is located within Tamarac.

  • Auto/Motorcycle

    The Blackbird Auto Tour Route is a self-guided interpretive trail which winds through the forest and follows the edges of lakes, marshes and bogs. An observation platform overlooks Blackbird Lake. The tour route is open April through November, road conditions permitting. Pick up a copy of the guide leaflet at the visitor center or information kiosks.

  • Fishing

    Several lakes are open for fishing throughout the year. Two sites along the Otter Tail River are also open for bank fishing. Consult the refuge's Fishing Map & Regulations leaflet and Minnesota's Fishing Regulations booklet, or White Earth Reservation regulations for more information. See for a map and more information.

  • Hiking

    A short interpretive trail can be found at the visitor center. The Old Indian Hiking Trail on County Road 29 winds through an old maple-basswood forest for approximately 2 miles. All the roads and trails in the Visitor Use Area are also open for hiking year round and snowshoeing during winter months. Roads and trails in the Sanctuary Area are open for hiking or snowshoeing from September through February only.

  • Hunting

    The refuge offers opportunities for hunters during the fall and winter months. Consult the refuge's Hunting Map & Regulations leaflet and Minnesota's Hunting and Trapping Regulations booklet, or White Earth Reservation regulations for detailed information.

  • Wildlife Watching

    The refuge abounds with wildlife viewing opportunities and over 250 bird and 40 mammal species have been recorded here since 1938. Lakes, rivers and wetlands provide homes for countless species of fish, reptiles and amphibians. Near woodlands and grasslands, you will find butterflies, moths, insects and other creatures. Leaf color during the fall season is spectacular! Hiking trails and the auto tour route allow quick access to scenic areas.

  • Winter Sports

    The Pine Lake Ski Trail is open seasonally and offers two ungroomed loops approximately 1.5 and 6 miles. A parking lot and trailhead map are located on County Road 29. Roads and trails in the Visitor Use Area are also open seasonally. Roads and trails north of the Visitor Use Area are open through the end of February only.


The Sanctuary Area includes lands and trails north of County Road 26. This area is closed to the public from March 1 through August 31 to give resident wildlife a sanctuary during the breeding season. The Visitor Use Area south of County Road 26 is available for public use year round to all permitted activities.

Spring brings a wave of woodland warblers, look for up to 25 species. Marsh marigolds, wild calla lily, and blue flag iris bloom at the edge of wetlands. The woodland floor is carpeted with hepatica, violets, and wood anemone. Along the roads look for yellow lady's slipper, wild geranium and Indian paintbrush.

Summer is the time to see deer fawns, Trumpeter Swan cygnets, and Bald Eagles feeding their young. Early summer you'll find the showy pink lady's slipper, Canada anemone, wild rose and harebell in bloom. In wet areas look for water lilies, Joe Pye Weed, wild mint, and jewelweed.

Fall berries such as raspberry, chokecherry, and gooseberry attract an abundance of wildlife. Watch for groups of Cedar Waxwings or the occasional black bear. The ripening of the wild rice brings scores of migrating waterfowl, including thousands of Ring-necked Ducks. Beaver and muskrat are busy creating a cache of food for the winter. The tamarack trees turn gold just after the explosion of color in the hardwood forests.

Winter tracks and tunnels can tell you much about an animal's daily activities. Watch for river otter, mink, weasels, porcupine, and red fox. The open view into the woods may also give you a glimpse of a gray wolf. Birds are less shy now than during the breeding season. Owls begin their courtship and hoots can be heard during evening hours.

Park Partners

Tamarac Interpretive Association

The Tamarac Interpretive Association, Inc. is a 501 (C) 3 non-profit organization established in October of 1992 by friends of the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. The mission of the Association is to facilitate activities and programs that interpret, protect and restore the natural and cultural resources of the refuge. This group supports the work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and encourages the public to become more aware of the refuge's wildlife and environmental education resources.

(218) 847-2641



The refuge office/visitor center is located 18 miles northeast of Detroit Lakes, MN, at the junction of County Roads 26 and 29. Leaving Detroit Lakes on Hwy 34 East, go nine miles to the intersection of County Road 29, turn left going north on 29, and go approximately nine miles (paved and gravel roads). Leaving Detroit Lakes on County Road 31, go north approximately 9 miles to intersection of County Road 26, turn right, and go east on 26 approximately nine miles (paved/gravel road).

Phone Numbers


(218) 847-2641