Kellys Slough National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) Complex is located in Grand Forks County, North Dakota, approximately 11 miles west of the city of Grand Forks. Franklin D. Roosevelt established this refuge in 1936 for use as a haven and breeding grounds for migratory birds and other wildlife. The refuge is situated within the Red River Valley of the Prairie Pothole Region of the U.S. Central Flyway. It is located in the northeastern part of North Dakota and lies in an area formed by old glacial Lake Agassiz. The Lake Agassiz basin extends from the Canadian border to the South Dakota state line and 30-40 miles west from the Red River into North Dakota. The Agassiz Lake Plain covers about 10% of the State's total area and is described as having smooth, nearly level topography. It is located in the historic tall-grass prairie region of the Northern Great Plains.
Kellys Slough NWR Complex is dominated by low relief with numerous wetland basins. Soils in the area vary for cropland suitability from very poor to good. Several areas have poorly drained saline soils with a high water table, severely limiting agricultural uses. However, these areas offer tremendous potential for wildlife management. Many of the soils in the refuge have been rated good for shallow water areas and for wetland wildlife.
Several secondary shorebird and waterfowl sites are within a few miles of the refuge. These include the Lake Ardoch NWR, Stewart Lake Waterfowl Production Area, and Turtle River State Park. The refuge and these secondary sites provide critical habitat for countless bird species. Kellys Slough NWR also provides “keystone” habitat for surrounding grassland bird conservation areas.
Ecology & Conservation
Kellys Slough NWR Complex is an inland wetland surrounded by grasslands and agricultural fields. A series of water-control structures within it allow water levels in some areas to be manipulated to enhance wetland conditions. Total wetlands by class include: 1,813 acres of managed permanent wetland habitat, 8 acres of riverine habitat, 794 acres of semi-permanently flooded habitat, 95 acres of seasonally flooded habitat, and 39 acres of temporarily flooded habitat, embedded in a matrix of 1,085 acres of managed upland grassland habitat.
Franklin D. Roosevelt established this refuge in 1936 for use as a haven and breeding grounds for migratory birds and other wildlife. The Kellys Slough NWR Complex and surrounding area was the first project area in North Dakota by the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture (PPJV) through the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP). Through cooperative efforts among countless agencies, it has become well established as a site for waterfowl production, as a critical stopover site for migratory shorebirds, and as important habitat for other wildlife.
When President Theodore Roosevelt set aside tiny Pelican Island on Florida's East Coast as a refuge for birds nearly a century ago, he began a conservation legacy that now spans over 94 million acres across the United States and its territories.
The National Wildlife Refuge System is America's only network of lands dedicated specifically to wildlife conservation, representing a steadfast commitment to protecting our wildlife heritage. This system is a vast network of strategically located habitats that protect hundreds of endangered species and serve as stepping stones for millions of migratory birds. Wildlife of virtually every variety find a home on the National Wildlife Refuge System lands.
North Dakota and the Devils Lake Wetland Management Complex have been a part of the Refuge System since its inception. Stump Lake National Wildlife Refuge, North Dakota's first Refuge, was established in 1903 and Sullys Hill National Game Preserve was established in 1904. Kellys Slough National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1936, and has been providing quality habitat since that date. Only recently have we been able to convey how important the area is to spring and fall migrating shorebirds.
Refuge Manager, Kellys Slough NWR Complex
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
701.662.8611, ext. 329
Grand Cites Birding Club
University of North Dakota
North Dakota Game and Fish Department
Grand Forks County Prairie Partners