- Long Lake NWR is an important breeding and migrational area for thousands of migratory birds including waterfowl, shorebirds, and endangered/threatened species such as the migrating whooping crane and bald eagle and the nesting piping plover. This 22,310 acre refuge consists of approximately 15,000 acres of brackish to saline marsh and lake, 1,000 acres of other wetlands, and about 6,000 acres of tame and native grassland, woodland, and cropland.
Long Lake is approximately 18 miles long and varies in width from one-quarter to two miles. Periodically the lake goes dry. Similarly, in wet cycles, the lake may reach overflow capacity at depths of 6 feet. Most years, the lake experiences marsh-like depths ranging from 1-4 feet.
Due to the dynamics of the system, the refuge undergoes substantial habitat changes from season to season and from year to year. Colonial nesting marsh and water birds establish rookeries in suitable remote refuge habitat some years, and occasionally for a series of years, but often find the refuge void of that habitat because of natural habitat changes which can occur quickly.
Much of the refuge is accessible only by boat and therefore it hosts a number of migratory bird species and individuals (including substantial numbers of waterfowl during molting periods) which are relatively intolerant to human disturbance during portions of the year.
Major management programs include upland habitat management practices such as prescribed burning, grazing systems, maintenance and rejuvenation of dense nesting cover, and haying. Long Lake has had historic botulism losses and one of the major issues concerning management of the refuge is the lack of water management capabilities to better control botulism outbreaks.