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

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Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge

Wetland Jewel

Resting in the heart of the valley on the banks of the river.

Along a necklace of ponds that are invaluable for migrating and nesting waterfowl.

Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge Site Map

Download Printable Version of Site Information

Field Notes

Tundra swans glide into the ponds along the refuge road in spring. Pintails, gadwalls and ring-necked ducks descend for a rest on their journey north as well. Osprey and bald eagles nest here. White-tailed deer bound across a meadow. All summer, cattails rustle with a busy community of blackbirds, wrens, sora and American bitterns. Wood ducks nest in quiet sloughs. Dragonflies zip across the ponds. A great horned owl peers from a nest in the same cottonwood where pygmy nuthatches glean insects. Painted turtles bask on logs in refuge ponds, where in midsummer the "brrrrrrrrrm" of exotic American bullfrogs reverberates across the cattails.

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Habitat Link

From the air, the refuge ponds appear like a necklace of dazzling jewels. Migrating waterfowl tracking the Bitterroot valley north in spring and south in winter descend here for a welcome and much needed rest. Cottonwood forests along the river offer homes and shelter for woodpeckers, owls and host of other species.

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Cultural Link

Named for Senator Lee Metcalf, this refuge honors the Montana senator who had the foresight to advocate protection for wildlife habitat and spectacular land-scapes in the state. The refuge dates to 1963.

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Viewing Tip

Best viewing for waterfowl is along the refuge road (Wildfowl Lane) where it bisects the two ponds. Drive slowly and view from your car. Or park near the headquarters to step outside - but talk quietly and walk slowly. You will see the most migratory waterfowl during March and April. Neotropical landbirds arrive in May. Some waterfowl nest here and are visible all summer. At dusk, California myotis (a relative of the little brown bat) may fly overhead on the riparian trails.

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Helpful Hint

Stop in the refuge headquarters for the latest news on bird and wildlife sightings. Take time to walk the accessible trail through the cottonwood forest to the Bitterroot River. Altogether, the nature trails total 2 1/2 miles. In fall, the refuge is open to hunting, so check first with the staff to find best times to view during that season.

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Getting There

Take the Stevensville cutoff road off Highway 93. Turn east on the Eastside highway. Drive 1/4 mile to Wildfowl Lane and turn north. The refuge is two miles from this intersection.

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Contact

Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge, 4567 Wildfowl Lane, Stevensville, MT, 59870; (406)777-5552

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