- Bear Lake NWR lies 9 miles southwest of Montpelier in southeastern Idaho in the mountain-ringed Bear Lake Valley at elevations ranging from 5,925 feet on the marsh to 6,800 feet on the rocky slopes of Merkley Mountain.
The refuge encompasses what is locally referred to as Dingle Swamp or Dingle Marsh. The marsh and Bear Lake proper were both part of a larger prehistoric lake that once filled the valley and gradually receded. Dingle Marsh originally contained 25,000 acres, but drainage reduced it to less than 17,000 acres before it became part of the refuge. Refuge is comprised mainly of a bulrush-cattail marsh, open water, and flooded meadows of sages, rushes, and grasses. Portions of the refuge include scattered grasslands and brush-covered slopes.
The refuge provides valuable habitat for 11 species, which nest in colonies in bulrush. Primary management emphasis originally was on Canada geese because refuge and surrounding area have traditionally been an excellent goose nesting area. Management of redhead and canvasback ducks and white-faced ibis is now emphasized because their populations have declined from historic levels.