Hometown Habitat: The History of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Hometown Habitat


Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge protects nearly 80,000 acres of wetlands in our backyard. This is no accident. Decades of efforts, setbacks, and community engagement created the precious resource we can all enjoy today.  

The journey safeguarding our marshlands includes a variety of characters: duck hunters, scientists, and community members from all walks of life. These figures have left a legacy for us to continue.  

We invite all to discover more about its history, and its hopeful future through this exhibition now open through Saturday, November 13. 

Hometown Habitat is part of Think Water Utah, a statewide collaboration and conversation on the critical topic of water presented by Utah Humanities and the Bear River Heritage Area. 

Education Guide

We've compiled some links to historical records, maps, and other resources to offer more information on the history of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. 

Access the digital guide here. 

Plan your trip to the Refuge!

Learn more about the history of the Duck Clubs of Utah from Duck Fever: Hunting Clubs and the Preservation of Marshlands on the Great Salt Lake by Jack Ray

Read these oral histories about the founding of the refuge, the discovery of avian botulism, reconstruction after the flood, and other remembrances: 

  • Marcus Nelson tells the story of how E.R. Kalmbach, Director of the Bear River Refuge for the Denver Research Lab, discovered the strain of botulism that killed the birds in the early 1900s. 
  • Margaret Call's father, Vanez Wilson, was the chief engineer at Bear River Bird Refuge. She and her siblings grew up at the Refuge. 
  • Alan Trout and Larry Shanks describe the whole Bear River Bird Refuge Restoration project in great detail. This oral history was recorded about the time that the new visitors center was created.
  • Alan and Kathy Trout This oral history offers further details on how Alan Trout came to work for the Refuge. 

Here are a few news articles related to information in this exhibition: