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

Trails and Maps


Erskine Fishing Access Site

Riverside habitat a haven for songbirds

The best place in Missoula Valley to find Willow Flycatchers is in this lush riverside habitat along the Clark Fork.

Erskine Fishing Access Site Map

Field Notes

Numerous dead cottonwood trees attract nesting Lewis's Woodpeckers and other nesting woodpeckers, including Pileated, Hairy, Downy, Red-naped and Northern Flicker. Red-eyed Vireos sing from the cottonwood canopy. Least Flycatchers sometimes nest here. You can find three species of hummingbirds nesting here--Calliope, Rufous and Black-chinned. The abundance of willows make it the best place to see Willow Flycatchers in the Missoula Valley. Beaver dams bisect the river oxbow, which produces ponds for nesting gadwall, Barrow's Goldeneye, and Cinnamon, Green-winged and Blue-winged teal. Gray catbirds and MacGillivray's Warblers hide in the dense shrubs. Look for painted turtles on logs and Common Yellowthroats in the cattails along the oxbow.

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The 700-acre Erskine fishing access area is bordered by the Clark Fork to the south and un-grazed pastureland to the north. The powerful Clark Fork River roamed across the floodplain here leaving behind an island and adjoining oxbow. This ribbon of cottonwood forest mixed with ponderosa pine is great riparian habitat for wildlife. A wonderful mix of live and dead cottonwoods, mature ponderosa pines, aspen groves, willows, cattails and hawthorn thickets attract both nesting and resident birds, white-tailed deer, and beaver.

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Cultural Link

Erskine Fishing Access Site is part of a larger area that includes Kelly Island, Council Grove State Park, and Grass Valley that has been nominated as an Important Bird Conservation Area (IBA) by the Montana Audubon Society and American Birding Association. IBAs are places that have concentrations of either endangered or declining birds, significant populations of birds with very small ranges, or large concentrations of migratory birds. It is hoped that the designation of IBA will raise the awareness of the need to conserve these natural areas.

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Viewing Tip

At the trailhead, you can take one of two trails. If you take the trail to the east, you can explore the oxbow, aspen and cottonwood forest. The trail to the west will lead you to the bank of the main branch of the river. Spring and early summer is best for nesting migratory birds. In late August and early September, check out the berry-producing shrubs such as hawthorn and dogwood for migrating Warblers, thrushes, and cedar waxwings.

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Helpful Hint

You may need waders during high water (May-July) to access the interior sections of the site.

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Getting There

From Frenctown exit turn south onto Ducharme St., then west on Mullan Road for 2 miles, then south for 1 mile to parking area.

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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, walking trails, fishing

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Species of Note

  • Barrow's Goldeneye
  • Lewis's Woodpecker
  • Red-naped Sapsucker
  • Black-chinned hummingbird
  • Willow Flycatcher
  • Least Flycatcher
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Bullock's Oriole
  • Beaver
  • Spotted frog
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Site Information


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