This is Nebraska’s largest national wildlife refuge, and one that rivals Crescent Lake in its bird diversity, with at least 221 bird species (93 breeders) reported. Most of the refuge consists of Sandhills prairie, with dunes from 40 to 200 feet high, and intervening interdune depressions that often contain shallow, marshy lakes. Some of the lakes are open for canoeing or boating, offering great birding opportunities. Driving on the sandy trails requires care; a supply of water and a tow rope are recommended; avoid parking on bare sand, especially when oriented uphill.
Several greater prairie-chicken and sharp-tailed grouse leks are present in the refuge, and the numerous marshes and shallow lakes offer breeding habitat for eared, western and pied-billed grebes, a dozen species of waterfowl, and shorebirds such as soras, Wilson’s snipes, and American avocets. The higher grasslands offer views of long-billed curlews, upland sandpipers, and Swainson’s hawks.