Panhandle Plains
Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge Information:
Buffalo Lake was first developed in 1937 with the completion of the Umbarger Dam. Until the 1970s, natural springs and Tierra Blanca Creek provided water for Buffalo Lake. A combination of factors including irrigation, urban water usage, and draught caused the aquifer to dry up which in turn caused the creek and lake to become dry. In 1978, a torrential rain caused Tierra Blanca Creek to flood and fill Buffalo Lake to capacity. Shortly after the lake filled, the dam was condemned. The lake was drained. In 1992 and a new dam was built, but the cattle operations above the dam caused the lake waters to become infected with fecal coli. Today the lake is off limits to all water activities including boating, swimming and fishing. Only camping and wildlife viewing are permitted on the refuge. This 7,664 acre Wildlife Refuge is important as a wintering area for migrating waterfowl. Thousands of ducks and geese winter here. Habitat consists of short grass prairie, riparian, marsh, woodland and cropland. The riparian area consists of grasses and trees (Elm and Cottonwood) adjacent to the dry lake bed, and provides habitat for neo-tropical birds, deer and other wildlife species. Wildlife food crops are planted in the dry lake bed, and in addition to the naturally occurring stubble and plants, provide nesting grounds and winter cover for wildlife. Farmers keep two thirds of the crop and the remainder stays on the refuge for wildlife use. The short grass prairie is some of the best remaining short grass prairie in the country, and includes 175 acres designated as a National Natural Landmark. Short grass prairies are normally maintained by grazing bison. The refuge prairies are maintained by grazing cattle. The moist soil of Stewart Marsh provides waterfowl habitat. This unit is flooded each spring, and slowly dries, providing the growth of aquatic waterfowl food plants. Prior to the arrival of the ducks in the fall, the unit is flooded again to provide them food and cover. Artificial ponds and water tanks provide additional water for wildlife. This refuge is a phenomenal example of what government land managers and private land owners can accomplish when they work together to turn a potentially devastating wasteland into a renewed habitat for wildlife.In 2015, the refuge began preparing a Draft Environmental Assessment and hunting plan for opening the refuge to mule deer, white-tailed deer, and feral hog hunting. Amenities include walking trails, blinds, primitive campsites, and an 11 mile auto tour route. The refuge totals 7,664 acres. Buffalo Lake and the NWR are located approximately 30 miles southwest of Amarillo, Texas.In Umbarger, take FM 168 approximately 1.5 miles to refuge entrance road; follow the park signs to the visitor station.
*The Prairie Dog Town Unit South of FM 1714 and East of FM 168 is currently closed dure to human health concerns. The prairie dog towns at Muleshoe NWR and Muleshoe NWR’s Paul’s Lake unit are still very active and are open for viewing.
Umbarger is located 10 miles southwest of Canyon, approximately 30 miles southwest of Amarillo, and 22 miles northeast of Hereford, Texas. In Umbarger, take FM 168 approximately 1.5 miles to refuge entrance road; follow the park signs to the visitor station.