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Tamarac Wildlife Refuge

Open prairie on the Tamarac Refuge. Photo by - Truman Grove1 / 4
A fantastic scene with the river flowing in it's natural environment. Photo by - Truman Grove2 / 4
The Monarch Butterfly. Photo by - Truman Grove3 / 4
The Great Horned Owl. Photo by - J. Williams4 / 4

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 Cty Hwy 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 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 information kiosks located at refuge entrances.

Changing our power source Naturally

The Visitor Center is closed for one year while we install a new power system that will draw energy from the earth and the sun. Tamarac is tapping into nature for clean efficient, cost effective energy.

Geothermal heating and cooling will cut our energy use in half and is the most environmentally friendly way to heat and cool a building. Unlike other comfort systems, geothermal does not emit carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, or other greenhouse gasses which contribute to air quality pollution.

Solar panels will be installed to provide a portion of the electricity dramatically cutting energy costs. Using solar energy is a long- lasting commitment to Minnesota's future. This energy retrofit project also includes installing energy efficient windows, additional insulation, high efficient lighting, water reducing fixtures and more.

Refuge information can be obtained at several kiosks located at refuge entrance areas. For additional information, contact the staff at 218-847-2641. Check us out on Facebook as well.

Interpretive Programs and Activities

• Wildlife Excursions are offered every Thursday at 10:00 am. Explore the refuge with a knowledgeable guide. Search for wildlife and learn about the natural and cultural history of Tamarac. Meet at the Chippewa Picnic Area located 3 miles east of the visitor center on County Hwy 26.

• Wild Wednesdays! Programs will be offered every Wednesday at 10:00 am 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 History Tour, Aug. 4, 2 p.m.

Take a journey into Tamarac's past. Before the refuge was established, the landscape was extensively settled. Who were these folks? Where did they live and how did they survive in the wilderness? Caravan tour to several sites. Meet at the Chippewa Picnic Area.

• A Treasure of Trumpeters!, Aug. 5, 2 p.m.

Learn how this bird was nearly decimated and how Tamarac played a key role in its recovery. We'll travel out on the refuge in search of these majestic birds. Meet at the Balsam Lake Overlook on County Hwy 26.

• Walk on the Wildflower Side! Aug. 18, 10 a.m.

Back by popular demand! Join refuge volunteer Nancy Brennan in search of sun-loving blooms of late summer. Meet on the Blackbird Wildlife Drive at stop #4 and carpool to walk location near Pine Lake.

• Beginning Birding, Aug. 26, 2-4 p.m.

Discover the world of birding. Learn the basics of bird identification, how to get the most out of your binoculars and experience some birding "apps". Learn 12 new species and their calls. Meet at the Balsam Lake Overlook on County Hwy 26.

• 11th Annual Photo Contest

Start capturing those great images of nature here at Tamarac. The 11th Annual Photo Contest deadline is September 14. Categories include Wildlife, Plant Life, Scenic, Recreation, and Nature's Abstracts. Up to 5 photos can be entered, no more than 2 per category. For more information and contest rules, visit

Tamarac's Wild Night Life

On a sun-filled afternoon Tamarac will receive many visitors seeking to find wildlife in the great outdoors. However, just because we go to sleep at night, doesn't mean all of Minnesota's wildlife does the same. The evening in a forest is a thrilling new world with a unique set of sights and sounds. In fact some of the prime wildlife viewing, or listening opportunities exist in the hours of darkness. Here are some wildlife calls and sightings that can be found on the refuge when the sun sets.

Loon Calls: There is probably nothing more distinctive in the northern wilderness than the call of the loon. The loon has four basic calls. The tremolo, which sounds like quivering laughter, is a sound of alarm and aggression. This is also the call a loon performs when flying. The "wail" is the long lonely call used to communicate over distance. The "yodel" is used by males to guard their territory. Finally the "hoot" a shorter call, is used to communicate with the young.

Wolf Howls: Wolves are some of the most social and vocal mammals. Howling is used to identify one another, celebrate a successful hunt and find other pack members. The low pitch and long duration of a howl are well suited for transmission in forest and across tundra. Because wolves range over vast areas to find food, they are often separated from one another. Howling serves as the glue that keeps a pack physically together. Wolves are sometimes even responsive to a human howling.

Owls: The word owl comes from the old English word ule, which means to howl. Minnesota has twelve different owl species that are active in the darkness of Tamarac's forests. Owl calls can be heard on the refuge that range from rapid whistles, long piercing screeches and gentle softer hoots. The two most common species on the refuge are the barred owl and the great horned owl. The barred owl has a call that sounds like it is saying "who cooks for you?" While the great horned owl call is from 3 to 8 hoots, most often six. It is called a "hootie" or hoot owl because its call is a deep who-who HOO-HOO.

Because these creatures are active mainly by night, counter to our diurnal activity, they are often misunderstood and considered evil - blood sucking bats, the Big Bad Wolf. Though these are fascinating creatures that have adapted themselves to the night in order to reduce overall competition for resources among other species; it allows animals with similar food sources, such as hawks and owls, to live within the same habitat.