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Tamarac Refuge Ricing

Local Ojibwe tribal members harvest wild rice in the traditional fashion using only a pole for power.1 / 3
Cultivated rice, left, is darker than wild rice because it is parched with a gas. Wild rice, right, ranges in color from charcoal to cream because it is parched with a wood stove.2 / 3
Wild rice grows on Rice Lake in Tamarac Wildlife Refuge.3 / 3

"Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the Earth are never alone or weary of life." -- Rachel Carson

August is the month of collection and harvest to prepare for the cold months ahead. Spend some time in nature and replenish your body with cuisine fresh from the forest. Raspberries, gooseberries, wild plums, elderberries, blueberries, pin cherries and chokecherries can all be found and picked here at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge south of Hwy 29 in the visitor area. Please pick for personal use only. Observe the beauty of late summer flowers including yarrow, goldenrod, hoary alyssum, common milkweed, mint and woodland sunflower. Also come and sample some vibrant early foliage color with our native sumacs.

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. Many trails will open Sept. 1 for hiking and experiencing nature's wonders. 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.

Remember to bring your binoculars, bug spray and camera. Be sure to check in at the visitor center for the latest wildlife sightings.


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.

Photo Contest

You are invited to participate in Tamarac's 7th Annual Amateur Photo Contest. There are five categories this year: Wildlife, Plant Life, Scenic, Nature's Abstracts and Recreation. All photos must be taken on the refuge. Up to three entries per a person may be submitted. For more information stop in at the visitors center, contact us at 218-847-2641 or visit our Web site at

Guided tours, Sunday movies and presentations

Refuge tours will be offered every Thursday June through August from 10:00 am to noon. Wildlife films, special programs or activities will be offered on some Saturdays and every Sunday at 2:00 p.m.

Special presentations and activities

Sunday, Aug. 2 -- Discovering Tamarac History Tour, 1-4 p.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 for a presentations and then caravan to several post-colonial historical sites. Wear sturdy shoes and bring stories to tell.

Saturday, Aug. 8 -- A Trumpeter Triumph Talk and Tour, 9:30 a.m.

Discover the world of trumpeter swans, North American's largest waterfowl species. Learn how this bird was nearly decimated and how Tamarac played a critical role in its amazing recovery. Then we'll head out on the refuge in search of these beautiful birds and their young.

Friday, Aug. 14 -- Tamarac Twilight Hike, 8-10 p.m.

Join us for an evening of discovery. While most critters are settling in for a night of rest, others are just waking up! Learn about Tamarac's night life and how they adapt to the darkness of the night. Use your senses and become part of their world. Meet at the visitor center to carpool to a hiking location. Bring a flashlight and insect repellent.

Sunday, Aug. 23 -- Leave it to Beavers, 2 p.m.

Take an intriguing look into the world of beavers. Learn about some amazing adaptations this creature has acquired over thousands of years of evolution. Visit a beaver dam and lodge and learn how this large rodent played a role in Minnesota's history. Meet at the visitor center for program and caravan to beaver site.

Sunday, Aug. 27 -- Nature Digital Day Camp, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Join us for a youth day camp of digital photography, wildlife and exploring Tamarac Refuge. We'll start with learning how to take photos and some basics of wildlife and plants. Then with cameras in hand we'll sneak around ponds, hike trails, climb hills and wander fields in search of wildlife, neat plants and beautiful landscapes. Wear clothing for the outdoors, be prepared to hike, brink a sack lunch and your imagination. This activity is geared for youth ages 10-12 years old and space is limited. Please sign up in advance by calling 218-847-2641. Inquire about transportation from Detroit Lakes.

Sunday movies, 2 p.m.

Aug. 2 -- Planet Earth-Seasonal Forests -- Investigate temperate regions and find some of the most elusive creatures and well-adapted plant life on earth. From the giant sequoia to the Siberian Forests, Forests bring to life a seemingly familiar world that remains largely unexplored.

Aug. 9 -- Planet Earth-Fresh Water -- Follow rivers as they course from mountain to sea, nourishing unique and dramatic wildlife. From the world's deepest lake to a stunning look at the world's highest waterfall, Fresh Water offers a unique perspective on the secret lives teeming in our purest waters.

Aug. 23 -- Hooked on Hummingbirds -- Experience the wonder and enchantment of these tiny jewels. Watch baby hummers grow and prepare to leave the nest.

Aug. 30 -- Min-Bimadiziiwin: The Good Life -- Ojibwe wild rice harvesting in Minnesota -- an engaging portrait of a community of the White Earth reservation where people's lives revolve around the annual harvest of rice.

Minnesota's Wild Rice -- The "Good Berry"

August is the perfect time to indulge in Minnesota's wild berries: blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and wild rice. Though the last aliment may seem out of place, the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) call wild rice Manoomin, actually translating to "good berry." With a name rightfully deserved, the grain holds more overall nutrition than any other fruit, grain, vegetable or animal food source once available in the Native American diet and is a staple aliment of Minnesota wildlife.

In the Ojibwe culture wild rice is considered a direct gift from the creator and was also once an essential part of the northern Native American's diet because of its rich nutritional content and high durability after processing. The grain was valued so greatly for sustenance that there were often Native American battles over ricing territories.

According to Tim, E. Holzkamm, researcher of Ojibwe horticulture, in his related thesis, Native Americans depended on wild rice to sustain them through times of famine when wild game populations were low. The arriving French explorers also attributed the vigor and strength of the woodland natives to their wild rice consumption.

And after viewing the nutritional values of the grain, the wars many Native Americans had over ricing territories seem understandable. One serving of wild rice can pack quite the nutritional punch. One cup of cooked wild rice will provide 166 calories, 7 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, 35 grams of carbohydrate, as well as high values of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. In fact according to the University of California Berkley Wellness Encyclopedia, one-half cup of wild rice provides a woman 53 percent of her daily folic acid (a vitamin needed for the body to produce red blood cells) requirement and 48 percent for men.

Compare this to white rice, the emptiness of the kernel is apparent; a serving of white rice has 204 calories, 4 grams of protein and as little as half or less of the vitamins and minerals of wild rice.

Wild rice also provides wildlife with a nutritious tasty meal. Early May to late November waterfowl will feed on wild rice in every stage of development--sprouting seeds, young shoots and the preferred ripe grains. Ducks, geese, sora, teal and American coots will gather on the lakes to feast on the abundant grain the same time people are harvesting. Though unlike people, they also have the capability of diving to the bottom to retrieve seeds. Blackbirds, deer, moose, beaver and muskrats are other consumers.

Beyond its value for nourishment, Native Americans cherished wild rice for its medicinal qualities. Wild rice boiled with meat and fish broth was used as a common health formula to give to infants and to prevent illnesses. Small broken rice, or Manzaan, was boiled with herbs to create an ointment for poison ivy and nettle irritations.

Today the Ojibwe tribal members are using the grain to combat the rising rates of Type two diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol. Modernization has caused many Native Americans to turn away from traditional native diets that were low in fat and high in fiber to fast food American diets causing health problems. Through the Mino-Miijim project, wild rice and other traditional foods are delivered to reintroduce healthy traditional lifestyles.

Though the benefits from eating wild rice seem immense, obtaining the true wild rice can be problematic. The "wild rice" that many buyers pull from the shelves, with the intention of preparing a meal fresh from Mother Nature, may actually be infused with pesticides and grown in a cultivated rice paddy.

In fact, 95 percent of the wild rice in the market is a type of hybrid wild rice that was grown in a paddy and machine harvested. The nutritional label may be similar between cultivated rice and wild rice, but local ricing experts say the quality and taste is incomparable.

The parching (a step within the processing procedure in which the kernel is roasted to kill germs and loosen the tight-fitting hull) of paddy rice leaves the grain blackened and hard because it is heated over a gas stove. It also requires a longer cook time, 45-60 minutes, to break the tough hull. Rice critics often joke about the best methods for cooking cultivated rice -- "How to Cook Paddy Rice: Put rice and water in a pot with a stone. When the stone is soft the rice is almost done."

The true wild variety is parched on a wood fire giving the grain a color that ranges from charcoal to cream, and also has softer hull with a shorter cooking time of 25-40 minutes. When comparing any domestic food with its native counterpart, the flavor and aroma of wild rice is more robust. Experts say they can determine from which local lake the wild rice was harvested, because each lakes yield has a unique flavor.

But to the mere mortal the main difference is the price tag. Paddy rice is cheaper because the time and effort placed into production and harvesting is exponentially less. Cultivated paddy rice will usually sell from $2.50-$6 a pound. To generate an income from wild rice the price cannot drop below $8 a pound. To assure the product is completely natural, the label will have "hand-harvested or traditionally harvested organic wild rice" written on the package.

Wild rice and its sustenance for people and wildlife is irreplaceable, but everything wild rice needs to grow is becoming endangered. Damming and increased recreation are making conditions intolerable for wild rice to continue to develop on many of Minnesota's lakes. To assure this native delicacy can be enjoyed in the future we must be appreciative and consider it as the Ojibwe do -- a gift to be respected.