Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge Complex
Established in 1935, this refuge sandwiched between U.S. 2 and the Canadian border encompasses more than 30,000 acres of wetlands that provide habitat for dozens of mammal species, including beavers, muskrats, and bobcats, and a variety of shorebirds and upland birds. Medicine Lake hosts one of the largest concentrations of American pelicans in the nation. There are few facilities available, but that's the point.
The refuge has a relatively high visitation from hard-core birders who view migrating waterbirds in the spring and hunters who pursue upland game birds and waterfowl in the fall. Other than those seasons, you'll have the refuge to yourself. Bring good boots and long pants and hike into remote ponds and prairie potholes that hold an unbelievable amount of wildlife.
Winding through the central unit of the refuge is the Auto Tour Route, an excellent way to get a peek at the animals that call this pristine park home. Most of the route is open only during daylight hours.
The Observation Tower, adjacent to the refuge headquarters, provides a good overview of the lakes in the refuge and the surrounding terrain. From above the trees and tall reeds you can see the distinct lakes and ponds, as well as the sand hills around the borders. Birders often congregate in the Grouse Observation Blind, 2¼ mi east of the refuge headquarters, to take a good look at the resident bird species. The covered area is also good for watching other wildlife. 223 North Shore Rd. 406/789–2305 www.fws.gov/medicinelake Free Daily dawn–dusk
Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge Complex at a Glance
Elsewhere in Billings, Little Big Horn, and the Montana Plains
- Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area
- Big Snowy Mountains
- Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge
- Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge
- Fort Benton
- Fort Peck
- Great Falls