The Bear River Bird Refuge (Box Elder) is located in the northern section of the
Great Salt Lake, 15 miles (24.14 km) west of Brigham City. In 1903 Settlers moved into the area diverting large amounts of Bear River water for upstream use causing the mashes to dry up and leaving only about three thousand of the original forty-five thousand wetland acres. Avian botulism claimed hundreds of thousands of birds. Congress soon passed an act making the area a National Wildlife Refuge. Today it is a water management system at the mouth of the Bear River and includes 105 miles of canals and dikes and over 54 control structures. Five
5000 acre impoundments are created by the dykes. The average depth of the water is only about 12 inches. The refuge supplies food for migrating birds in the open water areas while abundant accompanying marshes provide excellent nesting and brood rearing habitat.
There have been problems maintaining the area due to the rise and fall of the Great Salt Lake. Improvements are ongoing thus insuring the continued availability of an oasis in the desert for the millions of birds migrating south. Visitors will also find a new education center and office complex which opened in 2006. Currently there is also an ambitious twelve mile access road improvement project underway with the first phase to be completed by July, 2009.
Hunting and fishing is allowed with specific restrictions in place.
See: Bear River Refuge plaques; Utah Place Names 1997, John W. Van Cott; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.