Great Plains Natural Science Society


Date of this Version


Document Type



Prairie Naturalist, Vol. 54 (2022), B6-B8.


It was by geological accident that North Dakota became the heart of duck production in the continental United States. When the Wisconsin glaciation retreated some 11,000 years ago, it left an uneven layer of glacial till over much of North Dakota and nearby states and provinces, an area termed the Prairie Pothole Region. Large blocks of ice in the glacial till eventually melted and formed depressions that became wetlands, or prairie potholes. These were embedded in a matrix of soil that, with millennia of growth by deep-rooted prairie plants, became rich topsoil. The wetlands, surrounded by luxuriant grassland, were ideal places for waterfowl to breed. The rich soils of the uplands also offered attractive areas for agriculture. The interplay and conflicts between waterfowl and agriculture drove much of the history of waterfowl in North Dakota during the past century and a half. The Duck Factory: A History of Waterfowl in North Dakota tells the story well. Many photographs, usually historic, grace the pages of the book.