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Sully’s Hill


Sully’s Hill National Park was established by presidential proclamation on this day in 1904 by President Theodore Roosevelt. The park is located “on the south shore of Devils Lake in Benson County, in the heart of the Spirit Lake Nation.” The park consists of 1,674 acres of marshes, wetlands, prairies, and wooded areas.

The area was first named in 1863 by an Illinois calvary waiting for General Alfred Sully. Sully was scheduled to meet up with the calvary as part of his expedition against the Sioux after the Minnesota Massacre. The general was detained and never showed up, but the calvary camped atop the highest hill in the vicinity awaiting his arrival. Before leaving, the men of the calvary named the hill in honor of the general and the designation stuck. By the time that President Roosevelt established the area as a National Park, wildlife in the area was already becoming threatened by the influx of settlers to the region. In 1917, several species including deer, elk, and bison, had to be reintroduced to the park. On March 3, 1931, in an extremely rare act, the United States Congress transferred Sully’s Hill to the National Wildlife Refuge System. The area’s designation was thus changed from a national park to a national game preserve. Today, Sully’s Hill “is one of four refuges managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for American bison and elk”. In addition to bison and elk, the refuge is home to white-tailed deer, foxes, raccoons, skunks, weasels, wild turkeys, beavers, minks, and over two hundred bird species. One of the first prairie dog colonies east of the Missouri River was introduced to the preserve in 1975.

Sully’s Hill also features the Regional Conservation Learning Center and a seasonal amphitheater that are used to teach students and visitors wildlife and environmental conservation. The preserve’s visitor center features a bookstore, archaeological displays, and wildlife displays. Thousands of visitors visit the preserve every year, hoping to catch a glimpse of the native wildlife that has been so carefully preserved at the refuge over the last century.







--Jayme L. Job