Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge

Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge was originally established as two separate areas, having different names and different jurisdictions. The original Sheldon National antelope Refuge was established in 1931 and contained just over 34,000 acres. The Charles Sheldon Antelope Range, or Game Range, was established in 1936 and comprised over 540,000 acres; and the two areas were combined to form what is now the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, comprising over 575,000 acres under the sole administration of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The special mission of refuges is to provide, preserve, restore, and manage a national network of lands and waters sufficient in size, diversity, and location to meet society’s needs for areas where the widest possible spectrum of benefits associated with wildlife and wild lands is enhanced and made available. That broad mission statement has been translated into a more specific Refuge objective for Sheldon — namely to manage the Refuge as a representative area of high-desert habitat for optimum populations of native plants and wildlife.

The Refuge is primarily high, semi-desert country typical of the Great Basin, characterized by large tablelands and rolling hills. Surface water supplies are severely limited. Annual precipitation averages less than 13 inches in the western portions of the Refuge and decreases to six inches in the easterly parts. These areas are interrupted by narrow valleys and canyons bordered by precipitous rocky rims. Elevations range from 4,500 to 7,600 feet above sea level.

Vegetation is dominated by communities of big sagebrush, low sagebrush, and rabbitbrush and bitterbrush. Meadow vegetation (grasses and forbs) and riparian vegetation (aspens and willows) are limited to areas around the few water sources found on the Refuge. Mountain mahogany and western juniper stands are found on higher elevations of the Refuge.

Habitat types include big and low sage brush areas, mountain mahogany and bitterbrush in the mountains above 6,000 feet. Other important types include alkaline lakes, marshes, grassy spring-fed meadows, greasewood flats, juniper covered uplands, and aspen stands in the more secluded canyon areas. Each of these areas supports its own particular wildlife species.

The study of wild animals in their natural habitats has become an increasingly popular pastime for many people. Viewing of wildlife on Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge can be greatly enhanced by a pair of binoculars or spotting scope, due to the large expanse of the Sheldon area. This equipment enables visitors to observe all animals, from mule deer and antelope to small birds from a distance without disturbing the animals.

Because of the isolation and vastness of the Refuge, inquiries should be made at Refuge Headquarters about current road conditions before traveling to the more remote portions of the Refuge-especially in the winter and spring months. Refuge Headquarters is located in Lakeview, Oregon, with a Sub-headquarters at Dufurrena, 30 miles west of Denio, Nevada.

For further information, contact:

  • Refuge Manager, Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge
  • PO. Box 111
  • Lakeview, Oregon 97630
  • Phone:
  • website