This refuge, originally established to protect bison and other large game animals, lies on the western edge of the east-west ecological transition zone between forest types, and thus has a fine mixture of eastern and western avifauna. Western-eastern species pairs that occur and may hybridize include such forms as western and eastern wood-pewees, black-headed and rose-breasted grosbeaks, eastern and spotted towhees, lazuli and indigo buntings, and Bullock’s and Baltimore orioles. A total of at least 20l species (76 breeders) have been reported here.
About two-thirds of the refuge consists of Sandhills prairie, and the rest is mostly of mixed riparian hardwoods. There is a good population of sharp-tailed grouse and wild turkeys. Grouse-viewing blinds are available. There are also breeding burrowing owls in a prairie dog town, yellow-breasted chats, American redstarts, grasshopper and Savannah sparrows, and both meadowlarks. There is a scenic trail down to the Niobrara River passing by a waterfall. This refuge is at the western end of the Niobrara Scenic River district.