An oxbow of the Missouri River before the last ice age, Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge is a massive series of lakes and wetlands a few miles east of Malta. Before the government started to administer the refuge, water levels would drastically vary by season, making it a poor breeding ground for birds—but an excellent breeding ground for disease. Since the construction of several dikes and water channels in the 1930s, however, the water levels of the lakes have remained fairly constant, and the 15,000-acre preserve now shelters numerous birds and mammals. Aside from typical prairie animals and field songbirds, there are sizeable populations of pelicans, gulls, and herons. Several protected species also live here, including the piping plover, black-footed ferret, bald eagle, and peregrine falcon.
As the main road through the refuge, the Bowdoin Refuge Auto Tour Route affords excellent views of the terrain and wildlife. Old U.S. 2 is another main route, but it doesn't compare
to the slower and far more scenic experience of the Auto Tour.
The Bowdoin Wildlife Refuge Headquarters, at the main entrance to Bowdoin, provides information on refuge conditions, species lists, a variety of mounted birds and mammals, and instructions for a drivable tour route. Bowdoin Refuge Auto Tour Rte. 406/654–2863 bowdoin.fws.gov Free Weekdays 8–5.
Birders and wildlife photographers come to the Pearce Waterfowl Production Area Bird Blind, on the northeast edge of the refuge, for great views. 406/654–2863. bowdoin.fws.gov. Free. Daily during daylight hrs.
Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge, Montana, United States