In 1937, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Bought the Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge to further their development of the Tierra Blanca Water Conservation Project. The purpose of the purchase was to create an area of recreation for the area. It was also due to the water supply the refuge offers. The Umbarger Dam built in 1938 is responsible for the creation of the lake and was filled with runoff from rain and natural springs from the Tierra Blanca Creek. With the lake came the influx of water fowl during migratory patterns on the Central Flyway.
The Tierra Blanca Water Conservation Project was overtaken by the Department of Interior in 1958 and was given the name of Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge a year later. The main goal of the refuge was to provide a habitat for birds who spend winter months in the area. With increased agricultural activity due to the growing population of the area, Buffalo Lake ran dry along with the Tierra Blanca Creek. The lake is normally dry unless a major storm floods the creek that feeds it.
While the lake is dry now, the area is still home to a variety of native species of varying habitats. The refuge takes up 7,664 acres of land where guests can enjoy nature watching, wildlife photography, education and interpretation of the surrounding environment, and hiking. This specific refuge is part of the national network of lands and waters that are protected for the enjoyment of wildlife and the community.
The mission of the Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge is to manage, restore, and upkeep lands and water formations for the benefit of current and future generations. The reason wildlife refuges are established is for specific purposes. Some are dedicated to the protection and preservation of endangered species and others for different reasons. The Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge puts wildlife first and is dedicated to accommodating migratory fowl. Certain activities in refuges are permitted, but all must be evaluated so as to determine their suitability for the area in order to protect the land and wildlife.
Encompassed within this refuge is the Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge as well as the Grulla National Wildlife Refuge. Although the Grulla refuge is located in Portales, NM, it is still part of the Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Both of these refuges are important players in the roosting of lesser sandhill cranes during the winter months.
Many tools are utilized for resource management in the area such as prescribed fires that would burn and clear old vegetation from the lands to reinvigorate and restore the natural landscape. This allows for plants native to the region to regrow so that wildlife can thrive. Bison used to keep the grass prairie ecosystem grazed, but since there are no longer any bison in the area, cattle are used to carry this out.
Visitors must pay an entry fee of $2.00 per vehicle. Hours of operation are 8:00 am to 8:00 pm everyday.
Saunter over to our next article to learn more.
Map from Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge to AW Broadband:
Map from Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge to Amarillo Botanical Gardens: