The next time you are in the Devils Lake area count on spending some extra time at Sullys Hill National Game Preserve. Better yet, make it your destination. North Dakota has several “well kept secrets,” and Sullys Hill is one of them.
I recently had the occasion to visit Sullys Hill, which is tucked away on the south shore of Devils Lake near Fort Totten. It is an interesting and scenic area. The 1,600 acre reserve consists of a mosaic of oak and ash dominated forests, wetlands, and prairie. It is home to herds of bison and elk, and is also home to perhaps the only prairie dog town in eastern North Dakota. Plus, with the diverse vegetation and Devils Lake right there, as you might expect, the birding here is excellent.
The preserve is, of course, open to the public. There is an auto tour and several nature trails on the reserve. There is also an impressive Visitor’s Center, which serves as a regional conservation learning center. They offer a variety of programs and services to school kids, civic groups, and the general public.
What is now officially known as Sullys Hill National Game Preserve was initially designated as a national park by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1904. Subsequently reintroductions of big game were conducted, including elk from Yellowstone National Park and bison from Oregon. The park was designated a big game preserve and placed in the National Wildlife Refuge system in the 1930′s and now serves as one of four refuges managed for elk and bison.
Even without the game preserve Sullys Hill is a place of interest. The hill it is what geologists call an ice-shoved block, which was formed by the glaciers. During the last ice age the glacier gouged a large mass of material out of what is now part of the Devils Lake basin and deposited it here near the south shore forming Sullys Hill. No doubt many of you have noticed a prominent ridge south of Devils Lake while traveling highway 2. That is Sullys Hill.
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.
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