Long Lake, located near Moffit, is up to two miles wide and sixteen miles long. It is a refuge, containing 22,300 acres.
It had been designated a federal game refuge in 1932, against the recommendations of some Burleigh county sportsmen. And on this date that year, the lake was in trouble, and the local Isaak Walton league, a conservation group, was notified of the situation.
The level of the water was so low that it had become stagnant, and a fine alkali scum had formed on the surface. This combination was paralyzing and killing ducks. More than five thousand were strewn across the lake.
The situation was dire, and crews were organized to address the situation. The game and fish commissioner said there were only two things to be done: the dead ducks must be removed, and other water fowl had to be kept away until the lake dried up completely or until there was more rain. Either would improve the situation. They even called in an agent for the US Biological survey out of Denver, who flew in to assess the problem.
Within a few days, the worst seemed to be over. Several truck loads of sick ducks were taken from the waters of Long Lake and carted away to fresh water. Among the workers were forty Boy Scouts from Bismarck and some from Sterling, who rubbed Vaseline on their legs and waded into the stagnant waters, hunting for sick ducks.
This was not the first time Long Lake had dealt with dryness and alkali issues. However, for all the work, and despite the recommendations against making the place a refuge, it still stands as one today. In fact, it has even been listed as a top-ten birding site by Wildbird Magazine, and was recently designated a Globally Important Bird Area and a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network Site … obviously with some hard work by past conservators.
Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker