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

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Calf Creek Wildlife Management Area

Sagebrush Country

Low-elevation trails with sweeping views of the Bitterroot range

One of the few public lands you can visit in the valley to experience sagebrush and grassland habitats.

Calf Creek Wildlife Management Area Site Map

Download Printable Version of Site Information

Field Notes

Vesper and savannah sparrows sing from sagebrush perches. Mountain bluebirds fly over-head. A kestrel hovers over the open grasslands. A coyote hunts for ground squirrels and a mule deer steps from behind a rocky outcrop. In winter, elk descend from the Sapphire range to feed in the open bunchgrass and find shelter in the ponderosa pine draws. This is home, too, for the nonvenomous bull snake, as well as the western rattlesnake - watch your step!

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Habitat Link

Native sagebrush is hard to find today in the Bitterroot Valley, mostly because of irrigation converting native grasslands to pasture and orchards. Fish, Wildlife & Parks manages this landscape to perpetuate the sagebrush and native grasslands that are important for elk and deer in winter, and for many grassland birds that are declining in the West because of loss of habitat, such as the Brewer's sparrow that depends on sagebrush.

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Cultural Link

When the Lewis and Clark Expedition rode and walked through the Bitterroot, they saw the valley before the era of irrigation. As you explore this area, step back in time 200 years to when Clark described one of the challenges of walking through sagebrush grasslands in the Bitterroot - prickly pear.

"I observe great quantities of a peculiar Sort of Prickly peare grow in Clusters ovel & about the size of a Pigions egge with strong thorns which is So birded as to draw the Pear from the Cluster after penetrating our feet."

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Viewing Tip

Pick up a trail map at the parking area and allow a couple hours or more to hike into the open foothills and up into the forests - open from April 15 to December 1. In winter, you can park and scan with binoculars in mornings or evenings to see elk.

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Helpful Hint

Special regulations are listed on the parking area sign and on the WMA brochure.
Regulations include:

  • year-round closure to motorized vehicles and target shooting
  • winter closure to all access from Dec. 2-April 14
  • partial opening as posted from April 15-May 14
  • entirely open from May 15-Dec. 1
  • no dogs from Oct. 15-Dec. 1

During fall hunting season, nonhunters should avoid mornings and evenings and wear hunter orange clothing for safety.

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Getting There

From Highway 93, take the Woodside Crossing cutoff to Corvallis. From Corvallis, drive south on the Eastside Highway 2-1/2 miles. Turn left (east) on Hamilton Heights Road. Drive straight east (about five miles) to the parking area and trailhead.

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Contact

Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, 3201 Spurgin Road, Missoula, MT 59804; (406) 542-5500

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Site Information

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