- The refuge is named after John James Audubon the famous wildlife artist and naturalist who explored the Missouri River in the mid-1800's.
The refuge was established in 1956 as mitigation for wildlife habitat destroyed by the impoundment of the Missouri River. The Corps of Engineer project(Missouri River Garrison Dam) created Lake Sakakawea and Lake Audubon, which are separated by a highway causeway. Lake Audubon Refuge is superimposed on Corps of Engineer owned lands and water. The south half of Lake Audubon and adjoining lands (14,776 acres) make up the refuge.
In 1976, the Bureau of Reclamation (BR) created the Garrison Diversion Project to provide water for irrigation and other uses for central North Dakota. The diversion project uses Lake Audubon as the water supply for the McClusky canal delivery system. The project required the raising of Lake Audubon 13' altering refuge habitat.
The BR is in the process of mitigating all refuge habitat losses due to the raised water level. Restoration activities include; erosion protection of shorelines and islands, creation of new islands and wetlands and the purchasing of replacement habitats. Lake water level agreements have provided additional habitat and protection from water and ice erosion.
Unique features on Audubon include a large lake with over 100 natural islands that provide nesting and migrational use for waterfowl and other birds. Important habitat is provided for species of concern including whooping cranes, peregrine falcons, piping plover and bald eagles.
Recreation - The refuge is strategically located for public use activities and has good potential for future compatible development. The lake area is a summer destination for fisherman and vacationers and the fall season attracts hunters.
Audubon NWR is located in Mclean County in west central North Dakota.