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

Trails and Maps


Council Grove State Park

A blend of cultural and natural history

Learn about the signing of the Hellgate Treaty and discover the wildlife along the Clark Fork River.

Council Groves Site Map

Field Notes

As you walk along the trail amid the old-growth ponderosa pine and cottonwoods, look up in the sky to scan for raptors such as Red-tailed Hawk and American Kestrel, which hunt for mice in the grassy fields and nest in the trees. The trail leads to the Clark Fork. Here, a large sandy beach and gravel bars attract fish-eating birds including Ospreys, Bald Eagles and Common Mergansers. Spotted Sandpipers bob up and down as they forage for insects on the shoreline. Lewis's Woodpeckers and Eastern Kingbirds perch on cottonwood limbs and sally out over the river to catch flying insects. The river cuts a deep channel near the willow-lined bank where a beaver family has built their lodge. Look carefully on the sandy river banks for Pacific tiger beetles. These brightly colored, quick and fierce insect predators spend nights in burrows they dig in the sand.

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The small, 187-acre park contains large, old-growth ponderosa pines, grassy fields by the park picnic area, and cottonwoods along the Clark Fork. There's also an aspen grove fed by a vernal pool--a shallow depression in clay-like soil that fills with water seasonally and make great breeding habitat for frogs and salamanders.

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Cultural Link

These old ponderosa pines witnessed the signing of the Hellgate Treaty when the Confederated Tribes of the Flathead, Kootenai and Upper Pend d'Oreille came to this place in July of 1855 to meet with the Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens. The tribes' reluctant signing of the treaty meant that they had to relinquish their ancestral lands (12 million acres) for the Flathead Reservation (1.25 million acres). You can learn more about this important event by reading the three-paneled interpretive sign produced in cooperation with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

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Viewing Tip

Spend some time along the river searching for insects such as tiger beetles and dragonflies. In June, you may catch the salmonfly hatch as they emerge from their aquatic stage to become winged adults. Both fish and anglers wait eagerly for this time of the year.

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Helpful Hint

The state park area is relatively open and it can get quite hot in the summer. You might want to take a dip in the river. This is a day use site only.

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Getting There

From Reserve St turn west on Mullan Road. Drive 10 miles until you see the turn-off for Council Grove State Park, which is on the south side of the road.

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

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parking, restrooms, picnic area, fishing, walking trails.

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Species of Note

  • Great Blue Heron
  • Osprey
  • Bald Eagle
  • Sora
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Common Nighthawk
  • Lewis's Woodpecker
  • Pygmy nuthatch
  • Bobolink
  • Tiger Beetles
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