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Getting outdoors

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 two-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 and 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 p.m.

n Sunday, May 30 -- 2 p.m. -- Film: Planet Earth Series: From Pole to Pole -- From African herds migrating hundreds of miles in search of water to desperate animal hunts, Pole to Pole examines how the seasons produce the greatest spectacles on Earth.

n Friday, June 4 -- 8-10 p.m. -- Friday Night Frogging. 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.

n Sunday, June 6 -- 2 p.m. -- Film: Crane Song -- 80 percent of the world's Sandhill cranes make their way through a 75 mile stretch of Nebraska's Central Platte River Valley every spring. Witness striking visuals and majestic sounds of the bird's journey north.

n Saturday, June 12 -- 1-4 p.m. -- Discovering Tamarac History Tour. 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 for a presentation and then caravan to several post-colonial historical sites.

n Sunday, June 13 -- 2 p.m. -- The Secret Lives of Dragonflies and Butterflies. Join local favorite, John Weber for an intriguing look into the fascinating world of dragonflies and butterflies. Enjoy beautiful photography along with a short walk to observe these creatures in the wild. Learn about their fascinating lifestyles and their significance in the balance of nature.

n Sunday, June 20 -- 2. Film: Wolves. Discover the world of wolves by plane, helicopter, on foot and through time.

n Happy to See Hapatica! by Nancy Brennan. A sure sign that spring has arrived on Tamarac is the sight of the early spring blooming hepatica. Oh hepatica! One would think such a gorgeous spring wildflower would have a more attractive common name or at least some moniker that conveys a little more beauty. Is "round-lobed liverleaf" any better?

The common name is derived from Greek and means "of the liver." The usual scientific name is Hepatica americana however, plant taxonomists are now classifying it as Anemone americana or H. nobilis.

The flower can be found throughout the refuge in woodland sites. It is one of the first wildflowers to bloom in the spring. The flowers usually have six petal-like sepals (the number varies) in a range of pastels from light blue to lavender to pinkish white.

Although the plant is only about six inches tall, it is fairly easy to spot because it contrasts with the leaf litter. The three-lobed leaves look a little battered in the spring because they stay pigmented throughout the winter and the mottled green, brown and purple does resemble liver. New leaves begin to unfurl after the flowers appear.

Another trait is the fuzzy hair that grows along the flower stalk, bracts and buds, which was charmingly mentioned in the 1893 book, "How to Know the Wild Flowers" by Frances Theodora Parsons: "...the fuzzy little buds look as though they were still wearing their furs as a protection against the wintry weather which so often stretches late into our spring."

Hepatica was used as a liver tonic until the late 1800s. Medicinal folklore held that plants offer clues as to their best uses and so the liver-like look of hepatica was interpreted to mean that it would be useful for liver troubles.

For native plant gardeners, hepatica is recommended for use in rock gardens and woodland gardens where it will form clumps that will slowly get bigger, but are not invasive. As always, it should not be transplanted from the wild, but it is available from reputable native plant nurseries.