Nestled in the Mission Valley near the base of the majestic Mission Range, Pablo National Wildlife Refuge is dominated by a 750-ha reservoir surrounded by grasslands and agriculture. The refuge has no developed facilities for recreation, and the area provides a haven for nesting waterfowl and migrating shorebirds.

Ornithological Summary

When water levels are low enough to expose extensive mudflats, Pablo Reservoir is an important stopover for shorebirds during southward migration in late summer. Up to 18 species of shorebirds have been observed on a single day in August, with total numbers of birds reaching at least 1,000 during peak days. One pair of Bald Eagles has nested at the site for several years. Large numbers of Redheads congregate during late fall, with several thousand being present on some days.

Conservation Issues

The area receives relatively little pressure from recreationists, although the growing human population in the Mission Valley could cause disturbance problems in the future. Invasive weeds remain a problem throughout the valley.


Pablo National Wildlife Refuge is under long-term lease to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.


The reservoir is surrounded by rolling grasslands (mostly non-native) and several pothole wetlands. Small stands of cottonwoods and willows grow along the edge of the reservoir.

Land Use

There are no recreational development facilities at the site. Fishing from shore is allowed subject to State and Tribal regulations. Ice fishing is also permitted. Photography and wildlife observation are encouraged along roads across the dam and along the north side of the refuge, although portions of the refuge are closed in spring to minimize disturbance to nesting birds. The refuge is closed to hunting. Adjoining state-owned lands are managed for wildlife cover, food production, and public hunting.

Stay abreast of Audubon

Our email newsletter shares the latest programs and initiatives.