Basin and Middle Lakes Migratory Bird Sanctuary

The Basin and Middle Lakes Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) is located north-east of Saskatoon, in Saskatchewan. It protects quality habitat for ducks, geese and swans.

Importance of the sanctuary: migratory birds and other wildlife

Basin and Middle Lakes Migratory Bird Sanctuary, located 40 kilometers north of Humboldt, Saskatchewan, was established on March 9, 1925. This sanctuary is a major resting and feeding area for migratory waterfowl and swans. In 2001 Basin and Middle lakes were designated as an Important Bird Area site due to the global significance of these lakes for shorebirds and waterfowl.

In the fall, Basin Lake alone attracts up to 20 000 ducks, 400 Canada geese and 600 tundra swans. Middle Lake attracts approximately half of these numbers. While many ducks and Canada geese use this area, the breeding populations on both lakes are limited due to a lack of suitable nesting habitat. Several hundred ducks, primarily diving ducks, and geese use the lakes during their moulting period in the summer. This migratory bird sanctuary is also known to be important for shorebirds during their spring migration and the endangered Piping Plover has been recorded here.

Wilson's Phalarope
Wilson's phalarope


This sanctuary is situated in Saskatchewan’s Boreal Transition ecoregion and encompasses two large saline lakes spaced 1.5 kilometers apart. As spring runoff and seasonal rains are the major water sources for both of these lakes, their water levels fluctuate throughout the year. Basin Lake has an average depth of 9 metres and, depending on the water conditions, several islands can be found within it. Middle lake is considerably more shallow, having an average depth of only 1 metre, and contains only one island. The shoreline around Basin Lake is rocky and sandy made up of either a dry meadow zone or mudflats. Around Middle Lake the shoreline is similar, but extensive wet meadow zones occur on the east and south shores. Aspen, willow and some white spruce surround both lakes.

Map of the area

Map of Basin and Middle Lakes Migratory Bird Sanctuary
  • Long description

    Map showing the location of the Basin and Middle Lakes Migratory Bird Sanctuary (MBS) in relation to Saskatchewan, St. Benedict, and Basin and Middle Lakes. The map shows the boundaries of the refuge, which contains these two lakes. The MBS is located east of highway 20. The scale of the map is in kilometers. Permanent and intermittent waters are shown on the map, as are roads and highways. An inset on the map shows the location of the shelter in Canada.


Basin Lake and the lands surrounding it were at one time a proposed International Biological Program site.  Until the mid-1970s, Basin Lake supported a whitefish fishery, however, due to the fact that both lakes are saline and slightly to moderately alkaline, the fishery is no longer operational.

Did you know?

The piping plover (circumcintus subspecies) breeds mainly in the Canadian prairies, particularly in Saskatchewan. This bird is considered to be endangered as it has a very small breeding population, which has remained relatively unchanged since 1991. Both human and climate induced changes to water levels in the prairies have reduced the amount of suitable habitat for the piping plover and this is considered to be the biggest threat to its survival.

Piping Plover
Piping plover

Access to the sanctuary

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, such as Basin and Middle Lakes, are established across the country to protect migratory birds during critical periods of their life cycle. Whether these areas are used for feeding, resting or nesting, they play an important role in the survival of many species. There is limited municipal road access to this site and much of the surrounding land is privately owned. Access to each migratory bird sanctuary varies by site and is at the discretion of the landowner and land manager. Please ensure that you are aware of how you can help protect this sanctuary and please read the restrictions, including those on firearms and hunting, which are in place to conserve the wildlife that call it home. Dogs and cats must not be allowed to run at large inside Migratory Bird Sanctuaries.

If you would like further information on what is permitted in Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, please visit the Management and Activities section of the website. For more information on Basin and Middle Lakes Migratory Bird Sanctuary in particular, please contact our regional office.

Key facts about Basin and Middle Lakes Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Protected Area designation Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Province or territory Saskatchewan
Latitude/longitude 52°33' N, 105°10' W
Size 8720 hectares
Date created (Gazetted) 1925
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Management Category IV – Habitat/Species Management Area
Additional designations Part of Basin and Middle Lakes Important Bird Area
Main habitat type Open water and mud flats (98%), wet meadow/marsh (1%), rock/sand islands (1% )
Key bird species Ducks, Canada goose, tundra swan, American white pelican, double-crested cormorant, American avocet and killdeer
Other species Birds: Horned grebe, eared grebe, western grebe, red-necked grebe, ring-billed gull, California gull, black tern, common tern, marbled godwit, willet, piping plover, spotted sandpiper, upland sandpiper and Wilson’s phalarope
Listed species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) Piping plover (circumcinctus subspecies)
Management agency Canadian Wildlife Service
Landowner Province of Saskatchewan

Related links

Contact information

Environment and Climate Change Canada
Canadian Wildlife Service
Protected Areas – Prairie Region
115 Perimeter Road
Saskatoon, SK S7N 0X4

Toll Free: 1-800-668-6767 (in Canada only)

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