There is a special feeling of wildness about this place, Tamarac, best expressed by the eerie howl of a wolf, mournful wail of a loon, or the drumming of a ruffed grouse from deep within the forest.
Tamarac Wilderness is located within the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in the glacial lake country of northwestern Minnesota. It was established as a refuge breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife. Tamarac is a land of rolling forested hills interspersed with lakes, rivers, marshes, bogs and shrub swamps. The token of the Wilderness is the Tamarack tree. This unusual tree is a deciduous conifer, turning brilliant gold before losing its needles each fall. Tamarac’s Wilderness consists of four sections within the refuge: three islands in Tamarac Lake and a larger section in the northwest corner. Here you will find stands of mature white pines, a favorite nesting tree of bald eagles.
Historically, the area was a prized hunting, fishing, ricing and maple sugaring area for Native American tribes. The Sioux once controlled the area followed by the Ojibwe. Today the northern half of the refuge lies within the original White Earth Indian Reservation established in 1867. Tribal members continue to hunt, fish, trap and harvest herbs, berries and wild rice in the Wilderness and refuge.
Tamarac lies in the heart of one of the most diverse transition zones in North America, where northern hardwood, coniferous forests and the tall grass prairie converge. This diversity of habitat brings with it a wealth of wildlife. There are over 250 species of birds and 50 species of mammals. Spring on the area attracts a magnificent warbler migration and fall is highlighted with an abundance of waterfowl including more than 15,000 ring-necked ducks at its peak. Bald eagles are common and wolves are occasionally seen. Tamarac is one of the premier production areas for trumpeter swans in the lower 48 states. Tamarac Wilderness also provides critical nesting habitat for golden-winged warblers, a Species of Concern whose population has declined steadily over the past 35 years due to loss of habitat. Other wildlife include black bear, porcupine, mink, fisher, otter and beaver.
With the brilliant fall colors of aspen, maple, oak, birch and tamarack interspersed with evergreens, Autumn truly is a beautiful time to experience the Tamarac. The Wilderness does not have established hiking trails.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Tamarac Wilderness.
The 2,000 acre Wilderness of Tamarac NWR is located in the NW corner of the refuge. The area can be accessed from Becker County Highway 35.
From the Refuge Visitor Center located at the juncture of Becker County Highways 26 and 29, head east on Cty Hwy 26. Turn north on Bruce Blvd. Turn east on Becker County Highway 143. Turn north on Becker County Highway 35. There is no formal parking area but numerous pullouts by gate trailheads are available.
The 3 islands in Tamarac Lake can be accessed with private boat from any 1 of the 3 boat accesses for the lake. Please refer to our refuge map for more information at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/tamarac/documents/refugemap.pdf
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
(No official title, designates Fish and Wildlife Service wildernesses) - Public law 94-557 (10/19/1976) To designate certain lands as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System and to provide designation for certain lands as Wilderness Study Areas
The designated public use area is open year round from 5:00 am-10:00 pm. The lands designated as sanctuary area are accessible September through February. This includes the 2000 acre wilderness tract in the northern part of the refuge.
While preparing to explore the refuge and its wilderness areas, visitor should be mindful of these important tips:
Bring insect spray as there are biting ticks, flies and mosquitoes. Lyme disease is prevalent in this part of the state. Wear a hat and sunscreen as well.
While hiking, skiing or snowshoeing bring your own water and drink plenty of it. One can easily become dehydrated in any season.
Because of refuge's size and landscape one can become easily disoriented and lost. Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return. Cell phone reception may be poor in some locations.
Don't forget your binoculars, field guides and camera.
Pets are welcome, however must be leashed or kept under control at all times. Trapping does occur on portions of the refuge for wildlife management purposes through the winter months and pets, especially dogs, could unintentionally be caught.
Visitors to Tamarac can experience and enjoy the refuge in many ways:
Hunting and Fishing: Tamarac has been a prized hunting area for centuries and continues to offer great opportunities. The refuge supports waterfowl, deer, ruffed grouse, squirrel and other game species. Summer fishing occurs on five lakes open to fishing. If you like solitude, four lakes are open to winter ice fishing. Species include northern pike, walleye, largemouth bass, bluegill, and perch. Fishing and hunting seasons follow the state and tribal seasons and regulations. Hunting and fishing brochures are available at entrance kiosks and the visitor center. Visit the refuge website for current maps and refuge information.
Wildlife Observation and photography: Tamarac's pristine and diverse landscape offers a chance to observe and photograph wildlife in natural habitats. Enhanced opportunities include observation platforms, guided photo safaris and workshops.
Interpretation and Environmental Education: Throughout the year, the refuge offers a variety of family friendly programs and activities including wildflower walks, beginning birding tours, Wildlife Excursions, Wild Wednesdays for pre-school age children, kayak cruises, snowshoe walks, ski treks and inspiring nature films on the big screen in the visitor center. The Blackbird Wildlife Drive offers a six mile self-guided journey exploring the edges of lakes, marshes and meadows. Environmental education programs are also offered to local schools in the fall, winter and spring.
Exploring the refuge by foot: Tamarac is now home to 14 miles of the North Country National Scenic Trail. Experience the diversity of habitat including bogs, pine forests, mixed deciduous forests, wetlands and more. The Old Indian Hiking Trail is a short 2 1/4 mile loop trail that follows in the steps of the Ojibwe people. There are ten miles of ski trails to experience which are occasionally groomed by a refuge volunteer.
Stop by the visitor center to see the 11 minute film, Tamarac, Its Life and Legends. Explore our hands-on exhibit area and enter your bird sightings on E-Bird. While there, you may shop for that special souvenir at the Friends of Tamarac Gift Shop.
Climate and Special Equipment Needs
When planning a trip to the Refuge, it is important to dress in layers and wear sturdy shoes for walking. Bring water, snacks, binoculars, field guides, a hat, sunscreen, insect repellent and a camera.
Want to Volunteer for Wilderness?
Citizens who volunteer their time to steward our wilderness areas are an essential part of wilderness management. Contact the following groups to inquire about volunteer opportunities.