Saturday, March 24, 2007

Buffalo Lake NWR

One of my favorite drives in the Texas Panhandle is Farm Road 168 south of Umbarger, Texas. I enjoy the area around Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge. I guess the reason that I like that stretch of road is the wildlife that can be seen at almost any time of day on almost any day of the year. Today as we passed by heading south, we stopped to watch a wild turkey gobbler strutting with full tail fan for a couple of hens. He was less than 30 yards from the road so it was easy to see him.

Often we see deer there. Tonight, as we passed by returning north, we saw numerous deer -- mostly mule deer. There must be hundreds of deer that populate the refuge. At night, many of them migrate into some of the wheat fields that surround the refuge. You can sometimes see herds of 50 or more.

When there is water in the lake (which is rare), there are plenty of waterfowl -- especially during the fall and spring migrations. It is a popular stopping spot for geese and ducks. Frequently, during those migrations, bald eagles can be seen hanging around in their pursuit of the ducks.

I believe the lake was originally impounded in 1937. It became a very popular boating, skiing, and fishing lake in the 50's and 60's, but during the 70's, due to drought and years of silting, the lake went dry. When sufficient rains fell to re-fill the lake in the late 70's, it was determined that the dam was unsafe, so the lake was permanently drained and the old dam replaced by a flood control dam.

I have vague memories as a child of going to Buffalo Lake on the weekends in the summer. I had an uncle that would take his boat out and those who were old enough got to ski. I remember my father skiing and I thought it was "pretty cool". By the time I was old enough to ski, the lake had silted in to the point that skiing was unsafe. At one point, you could walk across nearly any part of the lake without it getting more than waist deep (if I remember correctly).

I am happy that Buffalo Lake is now a National Wildlife Refuge. It would be nice if it was still a recreational lake, but since it is not, I am glad they have preserved it. I believe that it helped immensely in re-establishing the deer population of the central and southwestern Panhandle.

If you have memories of Buffalo Lake "as it was", please share them in the comments. I would be very interested in the stories. If you have pictures, you can e-mail them to me at, I will post them for you.


CDO said...

I remember the lake well. It is hard to drive by today and see what once was in the 60.s. I was a young lad then.We would meet a family there about once a year and camp and the adults would fish all night.

It seemed like a great lake there. But those were the good old days!

Agriculture in America - longing for the rural life today

Anonymous said...

I found a great picture of Grandpa and Jay in their skivvies at Buffalo Lake quite a few years ago. It's amazing how skinny they were back then! :)