Message from the Board

By Terry Thomas 

Drought: A disagreeable word that means that this won’t be a normal year. Creeks and wells go dry. Reservoirs are drained. Farmers anguish over how to water crops. Forage doesn’t grow and big game faces a lean summer. A rainy summer would help, but it won’t make up for a light snowpack.

As the Refuge Manager’s notes indicated last month, Camas NWR is facing a drought this year. The Refuge has received almost no water from Camas Creek and the wells can’t keep up. There will be a lot of dry ponds and withered grass.

What does that mean for the Refuge and for wildlife? Well, in part, it means that there will be less habitat for waterbirds such as ducks and shorebirds. The nesting that normally occurs on the Refuge may occur elsewhere. Some birds will likely still nest and then find that the water they depend upon for their brood-rearing disappears at a critical time. Flightless babies can’t walk all the way to Mud Lake.

Food is likely to be in shorter supply as well. Not only will plant growth be reduced, but insect and other invertebrate production will decline as well. Herbivore or predator, all species will be impacted as the circle of life shrinks with drying conditions.

Drought conditions also set up the potential for wildfire. Despite the fact that summer has just started, fire warnings and restrictions are being considered, even implemented. Wildfire and smoke may play a big part in our year.

Is there an upside to drought? Well, occasionally drying out a wetland actually can be a benefit. Most managed wetlands are allowed to dry periodically as this improves plant and invertebrate production. From a manager’s perspective, having dry conditions often creates opportunities to accomplish projects and tasks that might be impractical or even impossible in wetter conditions. Re-routing water lines, working on canals, mowing vegetation, and more are all opportunities afforded by dry landscapes.

Regardless, drought isn’t something that we have much control over. We have to accept what nature sends us and make the best of it. Even though our experiences outdoors may change a bit, we can still make sure that we don’t suffer from drought personally though. We can still get outside, observe nature, and thrill to the sight of birds, the sound of frogs and elk, and the scent of the earth on those rare days when it rains.

Camas National Wildlife Refuge is still there and will continue to hold surprises and delights for those who dare drought to stop them. Get out(side) and stay out. It is still good for the soul.

Refuge Manager's Notes

Brian Wehausen, 

Camas National Wildlife Refuge May 18, 2021

Our fears have come true and we have gotten very little water from the Camas Creek this year and snow at mid-elevation has been gone for over a week.  Without the water from Camas Creek, the Refuge is dry and will likely remain so for the rest of the year.  We are running wells, but with the dry conditions, they are struggling to make any headway with filling ponds.  If you are visiting the Refuge except for dry conditions for the rest of the year.  Both Big and Redhead Ponds have some water in them currently.

With the water we do have, we are seeing the usual species of waterfowl, cranes, and shorebirds where the habitat exists.  We currently have some good shorebird habitat and are seeing the smaller shorebirds showing up on the Refuge.  The songbird migration seems to be picking up the pace and really should be as good as it will get in the next two weeks in the area.

The overnight temperatures are finally starting to remain above freezing and we are now seeing good plant growth.  The plants in the pollinator garden are coming to life and greening up nicely now.  Cannot wait to see some early flowers come into bloom and start attracting bees and butterflies.  Look for the garden to provide some good in the next month.

Besides the birdlife, antelope are being seen on a more regular basis on Refuge and we still have deer and elk that will provide sightings as well.  We would normally be holding a World Migratory Bird Day event in May, but due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, it was decided to cancel that event again this year.  The Friends of Camas will look forward to the annual fall event and hopefully, things continue on a positive trend and we can host in-person events once again.

What's New 

Friends of Camas NWR Photography Contest

Time to get out to take your amazing pictures! 

Please practice social distancing!

     The Friends of Camas National Wildlife Refuge is celebrating the natural wonders of Eastern Idaho wildlife refuges and wildlife management areas with its fifth annual photography contest.   Photographs of birds, other wildlife and flora, as well as scenic images may be submitted at  through August 31, 2021.  See complete rules and submission form at

     Entrants may submit up to five photographs taken at the Southeast Idaho Refuge Management Complex (Camas NWR, Bear Lake NWR, Gray’s Lake NWR, Oxford Slough WPA) and Idaho Fish and Game-managed areas (Mud Lake WMA, Market Lake WMA, and Deer Parks WMA [including Cartier Slough]). 

     A Grand Prize of $50 will be awarded.

     First prize will be a Friends of Camas NWR neck gaiter and a ‘camera lens’ mug.

     Second prize will be a ‘camera lens’ mug.

     Third place will be a Friends of Camas NWR neck gaiter.

     All prize winners and honorable mention will receive ribbons.




Friends of Camas NWR Inc. 
2150 E 2350 N
Hamer, ID 83425