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Tamarac Refuge: Come check out the climate and its changes

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Tamarac Refuge: Come check out the climate and its changes
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

August is the month to prepare for the cold months ahead. Spend some time in nature to rejuvenate your spirit before the frigid temperatures arrive.


Experience some vibrant early foliate color with native sumacs and observe the beauty of late summer flowers including yarrow, goldenrod, hoary alyssum and woodland sunflower.

Sample some late summer cuisine with raspberries, gooseberries, elderberries, pin cherries and chokecherries that can all be found and picked south of County Highway 26 in the visitor area. See you on the refuge where the blacktop ends and the backwoods begin.

Wildlife watching

Here at Tamarac, wildlife is left undisturbed as they care for their young. Portions of the refuge are closed to the public during this crucial time, but many viewing opportunities still exist.

The most optimum times for viewing wildlife occur around sunrise and sunset. But sometimes even an afternoon visit can be rewarding to the quiet, watchful observer.

To increase your chances of seeing wildlife, take a drive on the Blackbird Wildlife Drive. This five mile drive follows the edges of lakes, marshes and meadows.

If you feel inclined to exercise, hike the 2 mile long Old Indian Hiking Trail and experience the beauty of the maple basswood forest. Another option is to venture out on the new North Country Trail, which traverses 14 miles through the southern half of the refuge.


Try your luck in one of our five lakes open to fishing. There are many varieties of fish to be caught including crappie, walleye, sunfish, northern pike and bass. A fishing map and regulations can be obtained at the information kiosks located at refuge entrances.

Visitor center

If you’ve got questions, our enthusiastic staff has answers. We are eager to help you make the most of your visit. Check out our interactive exhibits and learn about the diverse habitats which support Tamarac’s many species of wildlife.

Learn about the historical use of the refuge including that of the Ojibwe Indians and the European settlers. Be sure to view our large screen presentation: “Tamarac: Its Life and Legends.”

Before you leave, browse in the Tamarac Bookshop. Proceeds from sales support educational programs at the refuge. The visitor center is located 9 miles north of Hwy 34.

Visitor center hours are Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and weekends 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Programs and activities

  • Wildlife Excursions are offered every Thursday at 10 a.m. Explore the refuge with a knowledgeable guide. Search for wildlife and learn about the natural and cultural history of Tamarac. Meet at the Visitor Center located 9 miles north of Hwy 34 at the junction of County Hwys 29 and 26.
  • Wild Wednesdays! Programs will be offered every Wednesday at 10 a.m., July through August. Explore the world of nature with your child or grandchild during this hour long adventure. Activities designed for 3-7 year olds. Meet at the Chippewa Picnic Area.
  • Tamarac’s Photo Contest deadline is Sept. 12. Capture the essence of Tamarac! Categories include Wildlife, Plant Life, Nature’s Abstracts, Recreation and Scenic.

For more information, visit

Sunday, Aug. 3, 2 p.m. — Movie: “North America: Episode 3 — Learn Young or Die”

In the upper reaches of this vast continent, survival is a daily battle. From avalanche dodging grizzlies to head bashing big horn sheep, from diving bears to cunning coyotes, we witness the extremes and wonders of North America’s mountains and forests. Stay to discover more about Tamarac’s wildlife survival secrets.

Saturday, Aug. 9, 8:30 a.m.Trumpeter Tour

Discover the world of trumpeter swans. Learn how this bird was nearly decimated and how Tamarac played a critical role in its amazing recovery. We’ll visit several locations to view adults and their young. Meet at the visitor center.

Sunday, Aug. 10, 2 p.m.Movie: “An Original Duckumentary”

Ducks waddle, glide, dive and dabble, and their feathers shimmer with dazzling hues. Take to the skies with a flock of green-winged teal. Watch Wood ducks raise a family. Learn why Goldeneyes head north in the winter. After the film, join a duck enthusiast and learn how to ID ducks and hear some calls.

Saturday, Aug. 16, 10 a.m.A Peak at Prairie Wildflowers

This hike will take us through prairie plant communities that harbor many species more typical of the Dakotas. We will also see a young patch of jack pine that are successfully regenerating when many are floundering across Minnesota.

Field guides, hand-outs and hand-lenses will be provided. Bring water, cameras and sun-screen for this two hour trek. Meet at the visitor center to carpool a short distance to hiking site.

Sunday, Aug. 17, 2 p.m. — Bugs and Creepy Crawlers: Adventures in Insect Sweeping

Insects are part of a healthy ecosystem on the refuge. We’ll explore their habitat as we work the meadows with sweep nets. After collecting, we’ll view these critters up close with magnifiers and identify a few species. Meet at the visitor center for this family fun adventure.

Saturday, Aug. 23, 10 a.m. Nature Photo Adventure

Late summer flowers will be blooming and there will be a touch of autumn in the air. It’s just in time to capture some photos for Tamarac’s Annual Photo Contest. Maybe that winning shot will be yours this day! Bring your camera, a snack and water for this 2 hour tour. Meet at the visitor center.

Sunday, Aug. 24, 2 p.m.Movie: “Wolves”

Discover the world of wolves by plane, helicopter, on foot and through time. Stay for the latest update on Tamarac’s wolves with a possible habitat site visit.

Sunday, Aug. 31, 2 p.m.Movie: “The Civilian Conservation Corps”

Roosevelt’s civilian conservation corps put more than three million young men in the nation’s parks, forests, and farms. This film interweaves rich archival imagery with the personal accounts of CCC veterans to tell the story of the boldest New Deal experiments. Stay to tour the site of Tamarac’s CCC Camp. Driving distance is 2.5 miles.

Saturday, Sept. 6, 10 a.m.Wilderness Kayak Cruise

Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act! Experience the beauty of an early autumn day on the lake. Join a refuge ranger to explore the wilderness islands of Tamarac Lake. What is “designated” wilderness and what does it mean for people and wildlife?

Meet at the East Tamarac access with your canoe or kayak for this adventure. Life jackets are required.

Sunday, Sept. 7, 2 p.m. Movie: “Forever Wild”

To experience wilderness is to know one of this country’s greatest treasures. Forever Wild captures the glory of undeveloped, wild places through stunning images and the passionate tales of America’s modern wilderness heroes – volunteers who work to preserve a legacy of wilderness for all of us to enjoy, forever.

Stay and find out how you can make a difference in your own backyard. Join Janice Bengtson, volunteer coordinator, and learn about the many volunteer opportunities on the refuge.

Habitat and climate change

Since 2009, Tamarac has been part of a large climate change study being conducted by The Terrestrial Wetland Global Change Research Network (TWGCRN).

The TWGCRN is looking at how climate change will affect habitats over time and across a large scale.

Currently there are 34 study areas throughout North America in which information is being collected. Satellite images are also being utilized to track snowmelt and seasonal landscape change. The goal of this study is to provide information for resource managers to better manage habitat in the midst of climate change.

Tamarac provides data from 10 wetland sites. This data is collected through the use of water-level loggers, temperature loggers and song meters. The song meters or “acoustic recording units” record the sounds of wildlife including frogs and birds the first five minutes of every hour, daily.

Refuge biologist Lowell Deede checks each of the ten sites every 45 days to replace batteries and data cards. This will continue until the fall freeze.

Amphibians are the most sensitive to environmental changes. A key indicator species and the focus of this study is the wood frog. They are the northernmost frog species extending into Canada and Alaska.

Minnesota is on the western edge of its range in the lower 48. Data collected will tell scientists when the frogs first start calling and the peak of mating season. Analyzing the data will also offer insight into species populations not only of wood frogs but for others including spring peepers and chorus frogs.

At Tamarac, Deede has noticed a decline in spring peepers over the last 10 years. But to say it is due to climate change is too early to tell. According to Deede, “This data here is one element to a much larger data collection process that’s ongoing.”

It is only with time that we will be able to understand changes on the refuge.