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Tamarac Wildlife Refuge

Awaken your soul with a symphony of color and sound as Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge comes to life. Listen to the songs of birds as they prepare to nest. Walk along the trails and inhale the scent of spring wildflowers. Experience Tamarac and capture those memories during this ephemeral time of year.

Wildlife watching

Here at Tamarac, wildlife is left undisturbed as they perform the mating rituals of spring. 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 Auto Tour Route. 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.


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 refuge information kiosks or the visitor center.

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 entitled: "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.

Guided tours, Sunday movies, presentations

Wildlife Excursions will be offered every Thursday June through August from 10 a.m. to noon. Explore the refuge with a knowledgeable guide. Search for wildlife and learn about the cultural and natural history of Tamarac. Wildlife films, special programs or activities will be offered every Sunday at 2:00 p.m. For more information, contact the refuge staff at 218-847-2641.

• Sunday, May 29, movie, 2 p.m.

Planet Earth Series-Fresh Water

Just 3 percent of the planet's water is fresh and it is our most precious resource. Rivers and lakes have shaped the earth, carving out the world's most impressive gorges, valleys and waterfalls. Unique behavior takes place in the presence of this life force, such as dueling otters and crocodiles.

• Friday, June 3, Friday Night Frogging, 8-10 p.m.

Become part of the tradition! Join a Tamarac park ranger for a night of frogging. Identify frogs by their calls while learning about their natural history and significance to the ecosystem. Meet at the visitor center. Bring a flashlight and boots or shoes that can get wet. We'll tromp through a marsh and get a close up look at some of these cool green critters.

• Sunday, June 5, movie, 2 p.m.

Frogs, the Thin Green Line

Frogs have been on this planet for 250 million years. Today they are at the center of one of the greatest mass extinctions since the dinosaurs. Learn about this environmental crisis unfolding in our own backyard. 60 min.

• Saturday, June 11, Discovering Tamarac History Tour, 10 a.m.

Take a journey into Tamarac's past. Before the refuge was established, this landscape was extensively settled. Who were these folks? Where did they live and how did they survive in this wilderness? Learn about their significance to the refuge and more! Meet at the visitor center.

Spring Marsh Madness

Many of the spring wildflowers are on the shy and retiring side, but not marsh marigold -- it silently SHOUTS that spring has arrived. English poet, Lord Tennyson described them as shining like "fire in the swamps." Watch for these brilliant yellow patches in wet woods, marshy swales and along streams from late April to early June.

The sunny yellow flowers measure up to two inches across and have 5 to 9 petal-like sepals (modified leaves) surrounding a center of stamens. The plant grows up to 2 feet high with hollow stems and has large glossy heart shaped leaves. These mounded perennials grow best in partial shade but tolerate nearly full sun to full shade as long as their roots are wet enough.

The marsh marigold belongs to the family Rununculaceae which means "frog"- referring to plants that grow where frogs live. Its genus name Caltha is derived from the Latin word for "cup" referring to its upturned sepals. Its species name palustris means "of the marsh." This member of the buttercup family is also called Cowslip. Because these plants grow on hummocks, cows were known to have slipped on them while drinking water from a stream.

Marsh marigolds are found throughout the world in northern latitudes. They provide shelter to frogs and nectar to bees and other pollinators. Although the flowers look solid yellow to us, bees see them very differently. Their eyes are sensitive to ultraviolet light and to them they appear as purple landing strips guiding the way to sweet nectar. As they sip nectar, they pick up pollen grains that will eventually provide the next generation of seeds.

All parts of the marsh marigold are considered poisonous. Touching the plant can cause skin blisters. Colonists and some American Indian tribes did eat the

early spring leaves, but they had to be boiled in three changes of water to remove all the toxins.

Those who like to incorporate native plants in their gardens can acquire marsh marigold through reputable native plant nurseries. It is highly recommended for shoreline buffer strips and other places with moist soil. It will survive under drier conditions, but will go dormant in mid-summer without enough moisture.

Springtime on the refuge is brief but bright. Why not come out and celebrate the season among these flowers of the marsh.