Eastern forest dramatically gives way to the western prairie at Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge. Hardwood forests stretching from the Atlantic seaboard rapidly shift to the vast western prairie at this picturesque refuge. Prior to settlement, this diverse vegetation was attractive to wildlife, and the area teemed with waterfowl, upland birds, bison, wolves, and other prairie wildlife. When fully restored, the refuge will provide the largest contiguous block of wetland prairie habitat in the region, encompassing nearly 6,000 acres. This will provide resting and nesting cover for 219 species of migratory and nesting birds. Currently, many species of waterfowl, shorebirds, neotropical migratory songbirds, and birds of prey rely on the shallow water and prairie habitat that has been restored on the refuge. Photos courtesy of David Niemela.
The refuge kiosk is located in the west central portion of Minnesota in Becker County on 210th Street, about 1.5 miles northeast of Audubon, Minnesota. Visitors can get to the information kiosk by following the brown and white refuge signs on state, county, and township roads. It is managed by the Detroit Lakes Wetland Management District office which is located 2 miles north of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, via Hwy 59 North, then 1 mile east on CR 131, at 26624 North Tower Road.
Points of Interest
State, county, and township roads provide access to much of the refuge. A prairie chicken viewing blind is available from mid-March thru April. Observers can see the spectacular mating ritual of the Greater Prairie Chicken. Excellent wildlife viewing is available at Bisson Lake, during May and June. Shorebird and prairie songbird numbers peak from middle-to-late May. The Hesby Memorial Overlook with walkway and observation deck is located on the east side of Hesby Wetland. The refuge is listed on Minnesota’s first birding trail “Pine to Prairie Birding Trail”. The trail is over 200 miles in length with 45 sites to view birds.
Know Before You Go
When planning a trip to the Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge, it is important to wear appropriate footwear for land excursions and to dress for the weather. Consider bringing water, food, binoculars, field guides, a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent and anything else that might make the outdoor experience more enjoyable.
The Refuge’s wetlands and prairies provide resting, nesting, and feeding habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. Prairie habitat restorations increase plant diversity that attracts additional insects, which deposit eggs and larva, providing a rich protein source for spring chicks and ducklings.
Hunting in Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge
Hunting opportunities on Hamden Slough are relatively new. The refuge is open each fall for the State-set youth waterfowl hunt. The one-day hunt is allowed on roughly 60% of the refuge, maintaining 40% of the refuge as a sanctuary for waterfowl. In addition, the US Fish & Wildlife Service together with Ducks Unlimited and Minnesota Department Natural Resources sponsor a mentored youth hunt geared towards kids new to hunting. Deer muzzleloader hunting is offered on the refuge during the State-set season on all fee refuge land. This hunting option allows for a quality deer hunt after waterfowl migration, thus limiting any disturbance. Rules and Regulations can be found at the attached link.
Wildlife viewing, especially birding, is a favorite pastime at Hamden Slough NWR. Many roadways intersect the refuge and allow for easy viewing of the refuge’s natural resources. Favorites include the county road along the Big 6 wetlands and Highway 14 bisecting Bisson Lake. Both roadsides offer easy pull-off access and great views of refuge waters and wildlife. Booming prairie chickens in spring are a popular draw to Hamden Slough. Each year, biologists place a blind near the lek for people to observe the breeding spectacle up close. Reserve your spring morning in the blind by calling the office at 218-847-4431.
Interpretation connects people to their natural surroundings whether walking alone on a trail or as part of a group presentation. Hamden Slough refuge offers a little of both. Public events, a trail and interpretive signs help explain the value of the fragile prairie and wetland habitats to both wildlife and people alike. Interpretive programs are available for your class, group or organization upon request. Contact refuge staff for additional information or to schedule a program at 218-847-4431.
One of the most critical roles of the Hamden Slough refuge is to provide learning opportunities for younger generations about the importance of prairie-wetlands, wildlife and their associated benefits. Available tools to help accomplish this role include a prairie trunk and prairie chicken curriculum, geared toward fourth grade. To enhance educational opportunities and expose local school children and others to the prairie-wetland setting, the US Fish and Wildlife Service along with several partners constructed an environmental education shelter at the refuge. Contact refuge staff for more information on educational opportunities at 218-847-4431.
Location: Address: 21212 – 210th Street, Audubon, MN 56511 | Tel: 218-439-6319 | Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge Website | Distance from The Lodge on Lake Detroit • 12 miles
Detroit Lakes Parks & Trails
The Detroit Lakes area abounds with beautiful parks, lakes, rivers, hiking & biking trails and more. Detroit Lakes, Becker County, and the surrounding area offers so many recreational and outdoor activities that it is difficult to fit them into one visit. With over 400 lakes within a 25-mile radius, and with beautiful rivers and streams (not to mention the Mississippi Headwaters), many parks and trails have been created to provide public access.
Parks, such as the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, provide cross-country and snow mobiling trails in the winter– and even more trails for hiking and biking during the spring, summer and fall months. You can also enjoy the natural beauty from your car. The Lake Country Scenic Byway is an 88-mile corridor that follows Highways 34 and 71. Along its route, the Byway uniquely spans three different types of geographic terrain.
View Detroit Lakes Parks & Trails Guide