Bitter Lake is a large permanent-water pothole lake with no
inflow or outflow. With above average moisture in the recent past, the lake is
rapidly increasing in size, starting to flood out the town of Waubay on the
north end, and swallowing numerous sloughs and farms on the south/southwest
end.  In some years, there are small
pockets of reedbeds that host breeding white-faced ibis, Franklin’s gull,
Forester’s and black terns, and several grebe species. Flooded dead timber,
especially on newly-formed islands, host large populations of six tree-nesting
colonial waterbird species.  Several
islands host a huge population of nesting American white pelicans, as well as
up to five species of ground-nesting gull and tern species.

Conservation Issues

Fluctuating water levels inundate nesting islands. Currently,
when traditional nesting islands have become inundated, new islands
simultaneously are created. Because of the huge numbers of birds nesting in
high densities, disease is a concern.


Waters of the lake, islands, and flooded timber belong to the
state of South Dakota as well as nearby Game Production Areas. The rest is
private land. 

Land Use

The lake is a popular fishing destination. Waterfowl and game
birds (pheasant, grouse) are the main targets for hunting. The Game Production
Areas are to protect breeding ducks and other game birds. Most of the
agricultural land is planted to row crops.

Stay abreast of Audubon

Our email newsletter shares the latest programs and initiatives.