This site is best viewed in a Web Standards compliant browser. Please upgrade to a Web Standards compliant browser.

Montana Birding and Nature Trail
Discover the Nature of Montana...

Trails and Maps


Kelly Island

Island paradise for wildlife

This cottonwood island in the Clark Fork hosts a large nesting colony of great Blue Herons and great habitat for Lewis's Woodpeckers.

Kelly Island Trails Site Map

Field Notes

To explore Kelly Island, park at the 7th Street access and follow the trail through the grassy, open cottonwood forest. Look for woodpecker holes in the many dead cottonwoods. This is a great place to find nesting Lewis's Woodpeckers. As you enter the forest, listen for Pileated Woodpeckers, Yellow Warblers, Western Wood-Pewees and House Wrens. A walk along the river rewards you with the chance to find Spotted Sandpipers, Killdeer, Bank Swallows, Osprey and anglers hoping to catch some rainbow trout. In the slow-water channels, you may spot Wood Ducks, and Common and Hooded Mergansers. In late August, migratory shorebirds, including Greater Yellowlegs and Solitary Sandpipers occasionally frequent the shallow wetlands.

Back to Top


Kelly Island is home to a large heron rookery. The herons cluster their stick nests together near the tops of cottonwood or ponderosa pine. It's quite a sight to see these four-foot-tall birds with their long legs perched on top of a tree. Please keep your distance (about 900 feet away) if you find the great Blue Heron rookery. Herons are extremely wary and will leave their nests, or at worst, abandon the rookery completely if repeatedly disturbed during nesting season (March-July).
At the junction of the Bitterroot and Clark Fork rivers, youˇll find the incredibly wildlife-rich Kelly Island area, which covers about 650 acres including one large and eight smaller islands. These river islands offer sanctuary for wildlife. Mixed within the cottonwood forest are springs and old river channels, which form permanent and temporary wetlands bordered by dense shrubs. You can also find grassy openings, shrub thickets and old-growth ponderosa pine.

Back to Top

Viewing Tip

The easiest way to access the site is from the western end of 7th Street. A small parking area and walkway provide visitors access to the Kelly Island complex.

Back to Top

Helpful Hint

There are three access sites to Kelly Island- at Spurgin Road, Mullan Road and 7th Street. The 7th Street access offers the easiest wildlife viewing without needing waders or a boat. For the adventurous, crossing the Clark Fork should only be done during low water.

Back to Top

Getting There

The 7th Street access site to Kelly Island is located off Reserve Street. Turn onto 7th Street and drive about 1.5 miles to the end of the road. The Spurgin Road access site for Kelly Island is one block to the south of 7th Street and less than 1/2 mile west.

Back to Top


Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks
3201 Spurgin Road
Missoula, MT 59804
Phone: 406-542-5500

Back to Top


Parking, walking trails, fishing.

Back to Top

Species of Note

  • Great Blue Heron
  • Hooded merganser
  • Osprey
  • Bald eagle
  • Solitary Sandpiper
  • Lewis's woodpecker
  • Red-naped Sapsucker
  • Pileated woodpecker
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Veery
Back to Top

Site Information


  • Relevant Link
  • Relevant Link
  • Relevant Link
  • Relevant Link

Search sightings
in this area

Post a sighting
in this area