Wildlife Refuges in Utah
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service manages three wildlife refuges in Utah: Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge and Ouray National Wildlife Refuge.
The National Wildlife Refuge System now includes over 500 units, comprising 94 million acres! There is at least one Refuge in every state — some states have many more. These areas comprise the world's most unique network of lands and waters set aside specifically for conservation of fish, wildlife and plants.
The three Utah refuges provide opportunities for wildlife observation, photography, environmental education, interpretation, fishing and hunting. Millions of birds flying along both the Pacific and Central flyways use Utah refuges as important resting, feeding and nesting sites.
Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, on the northeast arm of the Great Salt Lake, offers phenomenal bird watching, especially in spring and early summer. Each year, millions of birds spend time on the refuge. A total of more than 200 species have been observed here.
A 12 mile-long auto tour route loops around large wetland units, giving birders close views of American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, White-faced Ibis, Western and Clark's Grebes, Snowy Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, the occasional Snowy Plover, and many other species. The auto tour route is available for vehicles, bicycles and hikers and remains open year-round, weather and road conditions permitting. Restrooms, a teaching pavilion, boardwalk, interpretive panels and accessible fishing pier are located at the River Delta Interpretive Site, near the beginning of the auto tour route.
The refuge is located 12 miles west of Interstate 15 at Brigham City. Take Exit 363, Forest Street, and turn west to the refuge. Consult the refuge's "Birding Information Line" 435-734-6426 for a recorded message of recent sightings.
The refuge operates a Wildlife Education Center in Brigham City, one block west of I-15 at the Forest Street exit (#363).
Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge, located at the southern end of the Great Salt Lake Desert, was established in 1959 to provide habitat for migrating and wintering birds. The refuge is named for the native Utah chub that is found throughout the refuge springs and impoundments. Totaling 17,992 acres, the refuge supports 10,000 acres of lush, spring-fed wetlands, a critical habitat in the arid Great Basin. The water from the springs is brackish and warm.
The refuge has a very rich cultural history. The area's first inhabitants were Paleo Archaic natives about 11,500 years ago. Modern habitation dates back to 1861. The historic Pony Express Trail runs along the edge of the refuge, and a Pony Express station was established here.
The marshes of Fish Springs NWR are truly an oasis in the desert. Several springs, fed by underground water that fell as precipitation thousands of years ago, provide important breeding, migrating, and wintering habitat for a diverse array of birds and other wildlife.
The refuge is open 365 days a year for self guided tours on an 11 mile auto route. Visitor information is provided near the main entrance. Drinking water and a 24-hour restroom are located at the refuge headquarters.
Driving Directions: From Salt Lake City, follow Interstate 80 west to the junction of Utah Highway 36 at Exit 99. Take Utah Highway 36 south for approximately 40 miles to the intersection of the Pony Express Road, just east of Faust. Turn right and follow the gravel road for approximately 61 miles to the refuge entrance.
From Delta, take U.S. Highway 6 north to the intersection with Utah Highway 174. Turn left on Utah Highway 174 and follow approximately 42 miles to the end of the paved road. Continue straight on the gravel road for approximately 15 miles to the junction with the Pony Express Road. Turn left and proceed approximately 3/4 mile to the Refuge entrance. The refuge headquarters is approximately seven miles from the east entrance.
Ouray National Wildlife Refuge is located in the desert of northeastern Utah; it receives less than 7 inches of precipitation annually. The Green River brings water down from the mountains of Wyoming and through the refuge, attracting thousands of waterfowl and other birds to this otherwise dry landscape. Refuge lands total 11,987 acres, including 3,800 acres of leased land from the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation and the State of Utah.
The refuge was established in 1960 to provide prime breeding, resting, and feeding areas for migratory waterfowl.
The refuge includes approximately 19 square miles of bottomland and river surface along the Green River. In late May, as natural flooding occurs, ponds are formed in the bottomland areas, spurring the growth of semi-aquatic plants which provide food and cover for ducks and other wildlife. In addition, these ponds serve as nurseries for the endangered fish species of the Colorado River system.
Visitors are welcome at Ouray NWR. A visitor center, information kiosk and restrooms are provided near the refuge entrance. A 12-mile self-guided auto tour route provides access to many viewing areas and most refuge roads are open to the public except for limited closures during inclement weather. The best times to visit are in spring and fall, during early morning and early evening hours, when animals are most active. The refuge entrance gate opens 1 hour before sunrise and closes 1 hour after sunset. The use of mosquito repellent is recommended during the spring and summer months.
Driving Directions: Take U.S. Highway 40, 14 miles west of the city of Vernal, Utah. Turn south on State Highway 88 and travel 14 miles to the Refuge entrance. The refuge office is located one mile down the entrance road.