- Historically, the area was glaciated pothole country. Today, natural runoff in the spring causes habitat flooding and maintains water levels in Mud Lake marshes which are part of the flow through Turtle Creek drainage.
Additional open water habitat is provided by the 400 acre Lake Nettie which is a closed basin, semi-saline and highly productive of sag pondweed. Local natural and man-made drainage supplies water to Lake Nettie and the adjoining, privately owned Little Crooked Lake.
The refuge's wetland complex of 1,285 acres produces and supports many waterfowl and other species of birds and mammals. Nettie's proximity to Lake Audubon (5 miles to the east) makes both refuges more significant as migrational rest areas.
The refuge provides a site for educational classroom studies. Summer programs for continuing education for teachers have been conducted in recent years.
About 1984, eighteen islands were constructed in Mud Lake by Ducks Unlimited to provide predator free nesting sites for water birds. Nettie is important because of it's large native grassland and wetland base and it's potential for management.
Lake Nettie NWR is located in west central North Dakota approximately eight miles north and 4.5 west of the community of Turtle Lake.