During my stay in North Dakota my wife’s nephew Rob stopped by to visit his grandfather (where we saw him). While everyone chatted Rob happened to mention that he and his wife had seen numerous moose in the area of North Dakota where they live. I thought it might be interesting to see some moose so I traveled to the area where they live. It is not too far from Parshall, North Dakota. Despite my reasonably diligent efforts, I saw no moose but I did see more of the North Dakota landscape that I have come to appreciate over the past several years.
One of the places I happened across was the Hiddenwood National Wildlife Refuge. Hiddenwood National Wildlife Refuge is a little odd. First, it isn’t the easiest place to find. While it appeared on MapQuest (which is the only reason I knew it existed), the roads in very rural areas parts of North Dakota (and the rest of the country) aren’t always the same as what appears on maps. Also somewhat confusingly, street sign placement in very rural areas can be pretty haphazard so at times I was in the middle of a corn field uncertain as to whether I was on a local highway or inadvertently trespassing on a path for farm equipment.
My first attempt at getting to the refuge ended at the location shown below when I decided not to take this unmarked and rather uncertain looking road. (The road was supposed to be 373rd Avenue, S.W., which I take as a sign of the optimism of people in the past.)
I think that my decision concerning the road not taken was a wise one:-)
Proceeding on a less direct route I eventually came upon a sign for Hiddenwood Lake (per the sign) National Wildlife Refuge where, not surprisingly, I discovered a lake. More of a surprise was the lack of any appreciable number of trees. I reflected that perhaps they were just more carefully hidden than I had expected.
It turns out that Hiddenwood Natioanl Wildlife Refuge is a very tiny national wildlife refuge. Spanning just 568 acres (2.3 sq. km) it is slightly less than a square mile (640 acres). It is also a special kind of wildlife refuge called an easement refuge. Such refuges are entirely on privately owned land and exist as a result of a conservation easement between the property owner (and all future owners since the easement runs with the land) and the applicable unit of government. An easement doesn’t change ownership of property but instead grants another party some kind of interest in one’s property. In the case of conservation easements, they are used to limit the use of the land subject to the easement in a way intended to protect its use for certain conservation purposes (for example, a lake may be subject to an easement to protect it from development since it is a major migratory bird rest stop). North Dakota has 63 National Wildlife Refuges, more than any other state. Of these about 48 are easement refuges, which appears to be many more than any other state. I am unaware of the explanation for the disproportionate number of easement refuges in North Dakota.
Whatever the purpose, the day I visited the only thing on the lake was an ice shanty with a couple of trucks pulled up next to it so whoever was fishing inside need not be unduly exposed to the elements while ice fishing. Aside from that, it was a pretty if somewhat barren view.
I was able to locate a few trees, but they seemed more lonely than hidden so I’m not sure how exactly they fit in with the whole “Hiddenwood” lake thing.
Other than the sign, the lake and the few trees I spotted, the only other things of note were a very large parking lot and a church-like building at the end of the lot (below). The building did not appear to be in current use (as a church or otherwise) since the snow immediately around the building was undisturbed.
On its face there wasn’t much to Hiddenwood [Lake] National Wildlife Refuge. I am going to try to find out a bit more about it and if I do, I’ll post what I learn.