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Salt Plains NWR

Site Facts

Country, State, Province/Region:

United States, Oklahoma

Relative Location:

Alfalfa County, 150km north of Oklahoma City


36.79 N, 98.36 W



Basis for Designation:

More than 20,000 shorebirds annually.


12,961 hectares (32,037 acres)


February 1994

Site Owner/Steward:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Site Partners:

Great Salt Plains Recreational Development Association, Cherokee Chamber of Commerce

Human Population within 100 km:




Jon Brock
Refuge Manager
Salt Plains NWR


The site is described as a large expanse of salt flats, composed by minerals deposited by successive flooding and drying. The Great Salt Plains reservoir has approximately 9,000 acres in the conservation pool. The area has no tides. Wave action influences the salt content of the man-made reservoir.

The site is used by shorebirds for feeding and roosting. Shorebirds use the refuge mainly from March to May and from July through October. Shorebirds use the salt flats and 1,000 acres of wetlands. During these migration seasons, duck and goose numbers usually peak with about 35,000 geese and 25,000 ducks. However, flocks in excess of 40,000 geese and 140,000 ducks have been seen at the refuge at one time. Also, gulls are an important part of this site's biology. It is estimated that over 3,000,000 Franklin's Gulls have stopped at this site during fall migration. In addition, many other species of shorebirds use this site as follows:

A parking area with a trail leading to a shorebird observation area has been constructed at the west end of the refuge just south of highway 11.

Ecology & Conservation

 Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, this site counts with approximately 1200 acres planted with maize, wheat, peas, and rye in order to feed Central Flyway ducks and geese. Also, many ponds and moist soil units have been in the refuge to offer and abundance of natural food plants.

Research has been conducted in the site by Jeff Ruppert, Susan Skagen and Ralph S. Tanner. Ruppert conducted nine shorebird field census surveys between March 31 and June 1, 1992. Spring migrants reached a peak of 8,833 birds on May 1., The most abundant species were snowy plovers and the small sandpipers: White-rumped, semipalmated, and Baird's sandpipers. Research was also conducted by Susan Skagen, which included this case, field census surveys, and , micro-habitat use, and spatialcing studies analysis were conducted. Dr. Ralph Ss. Tanner conducted research on Vibrio aspartigenicus spp. Nov. Dr. Tanner visited the refuge and collected soil from the refuge salt flats for research on oil recovery enhancement.


Most recent research activities include:  

The Study of Microbial Communities and it’s Biological activity in Saline and Thermal Environments   Principal Investigators: Elena Kolomiets, Heather Wilkinson, Texas A & M University, Plant Pathology Department, Collage Station, Texas.

Biological Control of Saltcedar by Saltcedar Leaf Beetle  Principal Investigators:  Allison Berro, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK.

Snowy Plover Study, Nest Monitoring    Principal Investigators:  David and Jessica Bender, Fort Hays State University, Hays, KS

Landscape and Local Level Factors Influencing Stopover Habitat-Use Patterns of Migrant Shorebirds within the Mixed-Grass Prairie of Oklahoma Funded by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.  Principal investigators:  Dr. Craig Davis and Gene Albanese, Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Fish and Wildlife Unit, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK.    


Special Information



Jon Brock
Refuge Manager
Salt Plains NWR
Route 1, Box 76
Jet, OK 73749
Tel: 580-626-4794
Fax: 580-626-4793

Additional Resouces