Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge

Quick Facts

Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge

Montana

(406) 538-8706

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

Extending 125 miles up the Missouri River from the Fort Peck Dam in north-central Montana, the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is approximately 1,100,000 acres in size and includes the 245,000 acre Fort Peck Reservoir. Given the size and remoteness of the Refuge, the area has changed very little from the historic voyage of Lewis and Clark through the era of outlaws and homesteaders. Visitors will find spectacular examples of native prairie, forested coulees, river bottoms, and "breaks" badlands. Elk, mule deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, sage and sharp-tailed grouse, and bald eagles make the refuge home. The refuge's namesake famously portrayed this rich diversity of native wildlife and habitats in many of his paintings.

Hunting and fishing opportunities abound on Charles M. Russell NWR, its satellite Refuges, and the Waterfowl Production Areas. Boating is popular on the Missouri River and Fort Peck Reservoir. Several state parks and recreational areas have been developed within the refuge. Each fall, hundreds of elk congregate in the Slippery Ann Wildlife Viewing Area, creating a spectacle not to be missed. Camping is permitted anywhere on the refuge. The entire refuge is open to hiking and horseback riding although no formal trails exist. Wildlife viewing and photography opportunities are found throughout the refuge.

Map of Charles M. Russell NWR

Latitude, Longitude: 48.002639, -106.477368

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Activities

  • Boating

    Both motorized and non-motorized boating is permitted on the Refuge.

  • Auto/Motorcycle

    A self-guided auto tour route, which may be accessed from two points along Highway 191 on the west side of the Refuge, provides visitors the chance to see the Refuge close-up and gain a better understanding of Refuge resources. Interpretive stops along the route provide information on the wildlife, geology, and history of this unique landscape. This auto tour route is 19 miles long and takes 2-3 hours to complete.

  • Camping

    Except where designated as closed, camping (other than backpacking) must take place within 100 yards of the waters of the Missouri River and Fort Peck Reservoir or within 100 yards of numbered roads that are designated as open. Direct access by mechanized vehicles from a numbered road is permitted to and from temporary overnight campsites within 100 yards of numbered roads designated as open. Select the most direct access to avoid damaged to soils and vegetation.

  • Fishing

    Fishing is permitted on the Refuge. Anglers often catch catfish, walleye, northern pike, sauger, perch, smallmouth bass, bullhead, paddlefish, and lake troute from the Missouri River and Fort Peck Reservoir.

  • Hiking

    Hiking is allowed anywhere on the Refuge but there are also established trails scattered around the Refuge with varying levels of development and accessibility. On the east side of the Refuge there are several paved, accessible walking trails near the Fort Peck Dam Interpretive Center and Museum. There are several hiking trails on the west end of the refuge that provide access to wilderness areas. Two hiking trails originate in Hell Creek State Park on the south side and there is an accessible trail near the headquarters building in Lewistown which features native plants.

  • Historic Sites

    Fort Peck hosts the fascinating Fort Peck Dam Interpretive Center and Museum, a cooperative effort among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, and Fort Peck Paleontology Inc. Museum exhibits have a three-fold focus: wildlife of the CMR, dinosaurs of the Cretaceous period, and the construction of the Fort Peck Dam. In summer, the museum is the epicenter of the environmental education and interpretation programs. During this season, staff present a variety of topical speakers, themed weekends and children's nature-oriented arts and crafts programs, as well as National Public Lands Day (a volunteer-oriented field event).

  • Horseback Riding

    Horseback riding is permitted in the Refuge. All horses, mules, llamas, and other types of pack animals must be tied, hobbled, or picketed while in camp. No enclosure may be used to contain animals.

  • Hunting

    Big game hunting seasons and harvest quotas on the Refuge may be more restrictive than State regulations. Hunting on the Refuge is permitted for mule deer, white-tailed deer, pronghorn antelope, big horn sheep, elk, coyotes, waterfowl, and upland game birds.

Directions

Driving

Charles M. Russell NWR is located about 150 miles northeast of Billings, Montana. The headquarters for the Refuge Complex is located in Lewistown. From Great Falls, follow U.S. Highway 87 east for 100 miles to Lewistown. Turn right onto Airport Road. From Billings, follow U.S. Highway 87 north to Grass Range and then west to Lewistown for 130 miles. Turn left onto Airport Road. The Refuge headquarters is located about 1 mile up the road to the left.

Three staffed field stations are located around the Refuge. Sand Creek Wildlife Station is located 2 miles south of the Missouri River on the east side of U.S. Highway 191. Jordan Wildlife Station is located south of Montana Highway 200 in the town of Jordan. Fort Peck Wildlife Station is located east of Montana Highway 24 in the town of Fort Peck.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(406) 538-8706

Links