Places: Swan River National Wildlife Refuge

By Beacon Staff

A break in the trees along MT Highway 83 offers a brief view of the Swan River National Wildlife Refuge, but only by taking the short drive down a one-lane dirt road can visitors experience the grandeur of wild Montana.

The 1,568-acre floodplain of the Swan River was acquired in 1973 under the authority of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act. Located between the Swan Mountain Range to the east and the Mission Mountain Range to the west, the views from the wooden observation platform are breathtaking.

For more adventure, take a stroll along the aptly named Bog Road. The road, which traverses the refuge east to west, is not maintained and can be wet and muddy, so rubber boots are recommended. It is the only access to the interior portion of the refuge and is open for wildlife observation and photography.

Common waterfowl found in the refuge include Canadian geese, mallards, cinnamon teal and common goldeneye. The refuge provides a nesting site for a pair of bald eagles and habitat for a variety of hawks, owls, wren, sparrow and blackbirds.

White-tailed deer are the most common large mammals seen but elk, moose, beaver, bobcat and black bear are known to inhabit the area. Also keep an eye out for coyotes, muskrat and raccoons.

How to get there: From downtown Kalispell, travel south on U.S. Highway 93. Turn east on Highway 82 toward Bigfork. Turn south on Highway 35 for 0.3 miles, then turn east at the next intersection, Highway 83. The refuge is on the west side of the highway just south of the lake.