Lake Darling, North Dakota, USA

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Lake Darling — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

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All About Lake Darling

Lake Darling is the focal point of the Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge located in northwest North Dakota. The Refuge is beautifully situated along a narrow band of river bottom woodlands, gentle rolling hills, and fertile floodplains. Lake Darling was built by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and was created for water supply, wildlife propagation and waterfowl staging and resting.

Lake Darling was named after a political cartoonist Jay N. “Ding” Darling, who became director of the newly formed Bureau of Biological Survey. After the Great Plains suffered a drought in the 1930’s, the population of ducks diminished. Darling helped push the Duck Stamp Act through Congress. Proceeds from the sale of Duck Stamps were used to purchase three refuges, with Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge being one of them.

Lake Darling provides walking and hiking trails to enjoy the area’s beauty. There are even areas open for berry picking. In the winter cross-country skiing can be enjoyed along the 3.5-mile Prairie-Marsh Scenic Drive. Lake Darling also provides several designated canoe routes for those who like a leisurely paddle around the lake. Photographers will also enjoy the abundant flora and fauna around the lake. In the spring the Refuge sets up photo blinds that provide close-up viewing and photographing of the dance of the sharp-tailed grouse. Lake Darling has three lake access points with boat ramps, parking lots, two picnic areas as well as a visitor center. The Visitor Center has interpretive exhibits and a book store.

The Refuge has a special rifle deer season in which the hiking trails and designated activity areas are closed for safety reasons. Anglers will enjoy the 13 bank-fishing areas and two designated boat fishing areas at Lake Darling. Ice fishing is also allowed in designated access points. There are many species of fish in Lake Darling, but like other North Dakota lakes the most popular fish are the northern pike and walleye. Anglers must walk in designated areas and abide by Federal and State regulations.

Since Lake Darling is located in the Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge, some recreational activities are prohibited, including camping, water skiing, swimming, use of all-terrain vehicles, jet skis, and related vehicles. Boats and canoes are prohibited between October 1 and April 30.

For natural enthusiasts, Lake Darling is a delightful haven with ample wildlife to view. The Refuge was designated as a Globally Important Bird Area by the American Bird Conservancy, and up to 350,000 waterfowl can be seen around Lake Darling during the spring and fall migrations. Some of the waterfowl include tundra swans, pintail, canvasbacks, redheads, and buffleheads. In 1940 a resident Canada geese flock was re-introduced to the Refuge. Now the flock has grown to about 250 geese. Other than birds, visitors may spot deer and antelope, and on rear occasions elk and moose.

Whether visitors want a peaceful setting for a family picnic or enjoy a hike while taking in all the beauty around them, Lake Darling has a lot to offer. Visitors may find Lake Darling a place they would like to see time and time again.

Things to Do at Lake Darling

  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Wildlife Refuge

Fish Species Found at Lake Darling

  • Northern Pike
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Walleye

Find Places to Stay at Lake Darling

If you’re considering a Lake Darling lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Lake Darling Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Lake Darling lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Lake Darling Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

Water Level Control: Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge

Surface Area: 9,502 acres

Shoreline Length: 68 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,957 feet

Average Depth: 10 feet

Maximum Depth: 26 feet

Water Volume: 92,031 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1936

Drainage Area: 9,446 sq. miles

Trophic State: Hypereutrophic

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