About this place
The refuge is home to 58 species of mammals including pronghorn and mule deer, over 320 bird species, 12 species of native fish, and several amphibian and reptile species.
Archaeological research shows that Native Americans have been using and inhabiting this area for over 11,000 years. The abundance of birds, animals, and plants found in the Harney Basin provided Native Americans with plenty of food and resources. Periods of drought and flood complicated life in this area, forcing inhabitants to move to higher ground when lake levels rose, and to search elsewhere for resources when wetlands contracted.
As recently as 400 years ago, the Northern Paiute lived in mat-covered shelters, known as wickiups, harvested tui chub from Harney Lake, and cached seed from wapato (Indian potato), bulrush and goosefoot.
The refuge was established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt “as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds.”
In 2016, this normally quiet refuge was thrust into the national spotlight when the refuge headquaters became the site of a 41-day armed occupation.