Valentine National Wildlife Refuge – Valentine NE


Valentine Migratory Waterfowl Refuge was established in 1935 by an Executive Order of President Franklin Roosevelt.  Some 70,000 acres of land in the Sand Hills of Cherry County, Nebraska were purchased by the Bureau of Biological Survey “as a breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife.”  The Nebraska Game Preserve and Fish Commission worked cooperatively with the Bureau of Biological Survey to bring the project to fruition. (The bureau morphed into the US Fish & Wildlife Service in 1940). 

Valentine NWF is part of the Fort Niobrara/Valentine NWR complex, administered from Fort Niobrara NWR, along with the John and Louise Seier National Wildlife Refuge (which is more recent). The refuge is home to 270 species of birds, 59 species of mammals, and 22 species of reptiles and amphibians. Part of the refuge has been set aside as wilderness area in recent years.

The area set aside for the refuge had been overgrazed and damaged by drought and wind erosion. Valentine Lakes, the center of the refuge, are nestled in the Sand Hills of northern Nebraska. A series of creeks have their headwaters in this region, so, by diverting water from the Gordon Creek, the total water area of the Valentine lakes could be increased to more than 30,000 acres.

A three-fold plan for improving Cherry County’s lakes was created by the Biological Survey to make Valentine one of the “best developed refuges in the country.”  The three goals of the project were a building program, road construction and a water stabilization drive. Restored lakes would make allow the refuge to become a breeding sanctuary for ducks, geese and upland game. 

By October 1935, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers had set up camp and started work under the direction of the Biological Survey. It was thought that they could keep CCC workers busy until 1940.  A system of canals and diversion works were planned to connect the lakes so that the Bureau could control the water level in each lake. (see historic plaque, below) 

In August 1936, 150 men from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) were also present in the refuge, building ninety miles of fence near Hackberry Lake.  The fence would keep cattle out of the reserve and have the added benefit of delineating the area in which hunting was prohibited.

Source notes

Cherry County News, 7 March 1935.
Cherry County News, 19 September 1935.
Cherry County News, 19 September 1935.
McCook Republican, 4 October 1935.
Cherry County News, 11 April 1935.
Norfolk Daily News, 31 August 1936.

Project originally submitted by Jill Dolberg on August 19, 2015.
Additional contributions by Richard A Walker.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

Valentine, Nebraska 69201

Location notes: 27 miles south of Valentine, NE

Coordinates: 42.872783, -100.550967

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