Utah

Bear River

An oasis for waterfowl, wildlife and people

The Bear River opens into a vast marshland above the Great Salt Lake. Surrounded by arid desert, these wetlands provide an oasis for birds journeying between Mexico and the Arctic.
The Bear River opens into a vast marshland above the Great Salt Lake. Surrounded by arid desert, these wetlands provide an oasis for birds journeying between Mexico and the Arctic.
Photography | Rob Daugherty
Each April, great blue herons arrive Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge where they will mate and hatch their young.
Each April, great blue herons arrive Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge where they will mate and hatch their young.
Photography | Rob Daugherty
Bear River
The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge protects the marshlands of the Bear River delta where it flows into the northeast arm of the Great Salt Lake. These marshes are surrounded by desert and form the largest freshwater component of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem.
Photography | Rob Daugherty
Tundra swans, on the water in distance, migrate nearly 4,000 from their breeding grounds in the Arctic to overwinter on North America's Pacific and Atlantic coasts. The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is a major stopover for these majestic birds.
Tundra swans, on the water in distance, migrate nearly 4,000 from their breeding grounds in the Arctic to overwinter on North America's Pacific and Atlantic coasts. The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is a major stopover for these majestic birds.
Photography | Don Montgomery
Each fall, the Bear River's wetlands are used as a staging area for over 5,000 Canada geese and some 500,000 ducks.
Each fall, the Bear River's wetlands are used as a staging area for over 5,000 Canada geese and some 500,000 ducks.
Photography | Kris Lander
A flock of white-faced ibis flies above the Bear River wetlands. WRC's conservation efforts on the Bear added a vital piece of habitat to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.
A flock of white-faced ibis flies above the Bear River wetlands. WRC's conservation efforts on the Bear added a vital piece of habitat to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.
Photography | Rob Daugherty
The Bear River's wetlands support over 200 species of birds, including Wilson's phalaropes, snowy plovers, white-face ibises, short-eareed owls, tundra swans, black-necked stilts, sandhill cranes and the continent's largest breeding colony of American white pelicans.
The Bear River's wetlands support over 200 species of birds, including Wilson's phalaropes, snowy plovers, white-face ibises, short-eareed owls, tundra swans, black-necked stilts, sandhill cranes and the continent's largest breeding colony of American white pelicans.
Photography | D Mathies
One of the greatest producers of waterfowl in the nation, the Bear River wetlands are a haven for more than 270 species of birds traveling along the Central and Pacific Flyways. Through two land acquisitions, Western Rivers Conservancy protected more than 1,200 acres of wetlands by adding them to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.
One of the greatest producers of waterfowl in the nation, the Bear River wetlands are a haven for more than 270 species of birds traveling along the Central and Pacific Flyways. Through two land acquisitions, Western Rivers Conservancy protected more than 1,200 acres of wetlands by adding them to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.
Photography | Rob Daugherty

On its journey to the Great Salt Lake, the Bear River’s 350-mile length takes one of the most circuitous river routes in America. Its giant, inverted “U” shape begins in Utah’s Uinta Mountains, then snakes north into Wyoming and Idaho, and back south into Utah to meet the Great Salt Lake.

Here, the marshes at the mouth of the Bear River are among the greatest producers of waterfowl in the country. In the middle of the desert, this freshwater oasis hosts a phenomenal gathering of birds to rest, feed, nest and rear their young. Set aside by the public in 1929 as the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, this area sees more than 200 species and millions of birds throughout the year, much to the delight of upwards of 50,000 people who visit each year.

Western Rivers Conservancy secured critical portions of this nationally significant wetland complex by acquiring two properties and conveying them to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for addition to the refuge. Our first acquisition was a 696-acre property with excellent feeding and nesting habitat, located near the entrance to the refuge. This land was conveyed to the USFWS, which manages the 74,000-acre Refuge complex. The effort to restore wetland conditions on this property was initiated in partnership with Ducks Unlimited and Friends of the Bear River Refuge. Building on this first acquisition, Western Rivers Conservancy purchased a second, 580-acre property in 2011 that further expanded the refuge.

These properties enhance the offerings of the refuge by contributing diverse wetland habitat, including open water and sheltered grasslands. The projects conserve feeding, nesting and rearing areas for a tremendous array of waterfowl, including ducks, geese, egrets, avocets, tundra swan, American Pelican and black-necked stilts.

Critical support for our work on Bear River was provided by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, Stephen Bechtel Fund, Intermountain West Joint Venture, Rocky Mountain Power Foundation and Union Pacific Foundation.

Related Projects

All Projects

Stay on top of our work

Choose the news you want to receive, and we’ll keep you abreast of our conservation efforts around the West.