The northeast Montana prairie is home to an enormous population of large animals, small critters and winged creatures. Turkeys, burrowing owls, white pelicans, elk, osprey, deer, blue herons, pronghorn antelope, Canada geese, sandhill cranes, cormorants, ducks, foxes, eagles, bighorn sheep, pheasants, coyotes, Hungarian partridge, grouse, prairie dogs and more than 200 species of birds are some of the wild residents of Great Plains Montana.
If wildlife viewing is the primary reason you are in Missouri River Country or planning to be our guest, then you’ll not be disappointed. Eleven areas in our territory are part of the National Watchable Wildlife program. Missouri River Country’s designated places are Bitter Creek just 20 miles north of Hinsdale, Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge out of Malta, Elk Island at Savage just south of Sidney, Fox Lake Wildlife Management Area at Lambert west of Sidney, the road between Jordan and Hell Creek, the Little Rocky Mountains around Zortman, Manning Corral Prairie Dog Town near Zortman, Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge south of Plentywood, the Missouri River Downstream Recreation Area at Fort Peck, the Pines Recreation Area 30 miles southwest of Fort Peck and the UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge south of Malta.
Four of these places are major wildlife havens.
Spring, early summer and fall are the prime times to see the Missouri River Country’s refuges and wildlife sanctuaries.
MEDICINE LAKE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Just south of Plentywood, this body of water is the prairie gem and a summer home to more than 100,000 migratory waterfowl. It’s a place of high wildlife activity, highlighted by the thousands of sandhill cranes that stop here in October. A self-guided hiking tour and an 18-mile long driving route provide ample access to the refuge. Call 406-789-2305 for information.
BOWDOIN NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Best known for its nesting colonies of white pelicans, this series of wetlands and lakes, eight miles east of Malta, has played host to more than 230 different species of birds and waterfowl. There are many access points to the heart of the refuge and a 90-minute auto route enables you to see much of this haven. Call 406-654-2863.
THE CHARLES M. RUSSELL WILDLIFE REFUGE
The second largest wildlife refuge in the lower 48 states (about 1.1 million acres), the CMR is one of America’s great wilderness regions, as well as a wildlife refuge. It embraces about 229 of the nearly 300 Missouri River Breaks’ miles, surrounds Fort Peck Lake with its 1,600 miles of shoreline and is about 125 miles long.
This wild country is remote, rough and spectacular. The canyons, some 1,000 feet deep, harbor elk, bighorn sheep, antelope, deer and prairie dog towns. More than 200 species of birds and 40 species of mammals have been identified on the refuge.
There are many access points spread out over a vast landscape. For maps and information, call the CMR at 406-538-8706.
UL BEND NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Big game, as well as all the lesser critters roam here. Isolated and beautiful, this refuge is located deep in the Missouri River Breaks about 50 miles south of Malta and 40 miles southeast of Zortman. Visitors need to negotiate rough roads to reach the UL Bend and these passages are often impassable in wet weather.
The UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge is contiguous to the UL Bend Wilderness and the CMR. Call the CMR number for information, 406-538-8706.