Montana Valley and Foothill Grasslands, Part C

State and Local Sites in the Montana Valley and Foothill Grasslands. This post is the final in the series on Montana Valley and Foothill Grasslands and covers state, local and private sites focused on natural history. They are organized according to the valley where they are located.

The Blackfoot River Valley is upstream and to the east of Missoula. Aunt Molly Wildlife Management Area, Montana (N46˚55’ W113˚1’) is 1,184 acres located where Cut Off Road crosses the Blackfoot River south of Route 200 in the Nevada Valley. It is managed for native fish recovery and restoration of wetlands along the river. Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area, Montana (N47˚4’ W113˚20’) is 43,761 acres northeast of the junction of State Routes 83 and 200 managed as winter range for elk. Nevada Lake Wildlife Management Area, Montana (N46˚48’ W112˚48’) is located on State Route 141 north of Nevada Lake in the Nevada Valley. It is managed for winter range for elk and mule deer. Salmon Lake State Park, Montana (N47˚6’ W113˚24’) is a lakeside recreation area located on State Route 83 south of Seeley Lake.

The Clark Fork Valley is west of the Continental Divide and extends from Butte downstream to Missoula. Traveler’s Rest State Park, Montana, was previously described under National Historic Landmarks. Council Grove State Park, Montana (N46˚55’ W114˚10’), is in Grass Valley just west of Missoula on an island in the Clark Fork River. This is where the Hellgate Treaty was negotiated between the US Government and the Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d’Orielle Indians to establish the Flathead reservation. The state park is on Mullan Road. Fort Owen State Park, Montana (N46˚31’ W114˚6’), is a one-acre site north of Stevensville which commemorates Montana’s first permanent Euro-American settlement and first Catholic church. Fleecer Wildlife Management Area, Montana (N45˚47’ W112˚45’ and N46˚0’ W112˚48’) is a grassland area west of Butte and adjacent to I-15 at Divide. Frenchtown Pond State Park, Montana (N47˚1’ W114˚15’) is a lake recreation site is on I-90, west of exit 89 on the North Frontage Road. Milltown State Park, Montana (N46˚52’ W113˚53’), was developed following a dam removal at Milltown, exit 109 on I-90 just east of Missoula. The site is 500 acres and includes hiking trails and interpretation on the Lake Missoula glacial floods. Spotted Dog Wildlife Management Area, Montana, (N46˚30’ W112˚40’) is 38,000 acres northeast of Deer Lodge on Rocky Ridge between I-90 and US 12. Warm Springs Wildlife Management Area, Montana, (N46˚11’ W112˚48’) is a 1,600-acre waterfowl area at exit 201 on I-90

an extensive trail system in and around the City of Missoula, including trails along the Clark Fork River downtown, Mount Jumbo (N46˚53’ W113˚57’), North Hills (N46˚53’ W113˚59’), Tower Street (N46˚52’ W114˚4’), and Mount Sentinel (N46˚51’ W113˚58’). The Glacial Lake Missoula shoreline is visible in the area and is a scenic highlight of the trail system. .

The south shores of the Flathead Lake area are another grassland habitat. Big Arm State Park, Montana (N47˚49’ W114˚19’), is a lakeside recreation area on Flathead Lake, southwest shore. Finley Point State Park, Montana (N47˚45’ W114˚5’), is a lake recreation area on a peninsula at the south end of Flathead Lake. Ninepipe Wildlife Management Area (N47˚28’ W114˚7’), a 3,880 acre area of numerous prairie potholes northeast and southwest of the reservoir. Pablo Wildlife Management Area (N47˚38’ W114˚10’, 416 acres) adjoins the Pablo NWR, mostly on the north. Both Ninepipe and Pablo areas are managed consistent with adjacent national wildlife refuges.

Missouri River Valley south of Gates of the Mountains is an extensive area of grasslands.  The major tributaries of the Missouri are included.Bannack State Park, and Missouri Headwaters State Park, Montana, were described previously under National Historic Landmarks, while Beaverhead Rock State Park and Clark’s Lookout State Park,, Montana, were described under the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Black Sandy State Park, Montana (N46˚45’ W111˚53’), is a reservoir recreation area on Hauser Reservoir northeast of Helena. Canyon Ferry Wildlife Management Area, Montana (N46˚21’ W111˚31’), is 5,100 acres at the upper end of Canyon Ferry Reservoir, where the Missouri River flows into the lake. Four large diked ponds at the upper end of the reservoir contain islands which support American white pelican, cormorants, gulls, and terns, making the area an IBA. The dikes were constructed to reduce blowing dust from reservoir drawdown areas. Gravelly-Blacktail Wildlife Management Area, Montana (N44˚54’ W112˚17’), is an 18,000-acre area on Blacktail Deer Creek southeast of Dillon and west of the Snowcrest Range. Lake Helena Wildlife Management Area (N46˚42’ W111˚58’), on the west end of Lake Helena, is 175 acres managed for waterfowl and is an IBA. Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, Montana (N45˚50’ W111˚52’), is the largest known limestone caverns in the Northwest located on the Jefferson River canyon and accessible from State Route 2 west of Three Forks.

Madison Buffalo Jump State Park, Montana (N45˚48’ W111˚28’) is east of the Madison River and was used for 2,000 years to run buffalo off of a limestone cliff.  It is reached south from Exit 283 on I-90 (Logan). Madison-Wall Creek Wildlife Management Area, Montana (N45˚3’ W111˚42’), a 7,000-acre grassland area on the west side of the Madison River adjoining Beaverhead NF and the Gravelly Range. Robb-Ledford Wildlife Management Area, Montana (N45˚0’ W112˚10’), is a 28,000-acre grassland on the west side of the Snowcrest Range. Spring Meadow Lake State Park, Montana (N46˚37’ W112˚5’), is located on Country Club Avenue west of Helena and features a trail circling the lake. Willow Creek Reservoir (Harrison Fishing Access Site), Montana (N45˚42’ W111˚42’) is off of US Route 287 south of Three Forks. The irrigation district reservoir is an IBA for waterfowl and grassland birds.

On the Rocky Mountain front are extensive wildlife management areas.Beartooth Wildlife Management Area, Montana (N46˚57’ W111˚50’), is a 32,000-acre area on the north end of the Big Belt Mountains and east side of Holter Lake. Black Creek Heritage Rangeland, Alberta (N49˚55’ W114˚11’) is north of the Oldman River and west of Route 22, including Whaleback Ridge. Blackleaf Wildlife Management Area, Montana (N48˚0’ W112˚40’) is 10,000 acres of winter range for elk and mule deer and summary habitat for black and grizzly bear. It is located on the Rocky Mountain front west of Bynum. Bob Creek Wildland Provincial Park, Alberta (N49˚58’ W114˚17’) is an OHV, hiking and hunting area in the Livingstone Range north of the Oldman River and accessible from Township Road 104a on the north side of the Oldman River west of Route 22. Dome Mountain Wildlife Management Area, Montana (N45˚15’ W110˚49’), is a 4,800-acre elk wintering range in the Paradise Valley and adjacent mountains just north of Yellowstone National Park. Dutch Creek Provincial Recreation Area, Alberta (N49˚54’ W114˚24’) is a hiking and camping area on Route 940 on the Oldman River. Jensen Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area, Alberta (N49˚20’ W112˚54’) is south of Magrath on Jensen Dam Road and provides reservoir recreation. Judith River Wildlife Management Area, Montana (N46˚53’ W110˚18’), is a 5,000-acre elk winter range on the east side of the Little Belt Mountains.

Lundbreck Falls Provincial Recreation Area, Alberta (N49˚35’ W114˚13’) is on the Crowsnest River adjacent to Route 3. The river drops 12 m over a waterfall into a canyon. Maycroft Provincial Recreation Area, Alberta (N49˚18’ W114˚9’), is on the west side of Route 22 at the Oldman River crossing. Oldman Dam Provincial Recreation Area, Alberta (N49˚34’ W113˚54’) provides bird watching opportunities and reservoir recreation on Route 785 north of Pincher Creek. Route 510 provides access to the north shore. The park includes all property around the reservoir upstream to Todd Creek (N49˚36’ W114˚7’) and the Castle River Wildlife Area on Route 3 at the Castle River crossing (N49˚33’ W114˚2’). Oldman River North Provincial Recreation Area (N49˚57’ W114˚26’) is a camping and hiking area west of Route 940 near the British Columbia border. Outpost Wetlands Natural Area, Alberta (N49˚0’ W113˚29’) is an extensive wetland on the US-Canadian border between Chief Mountain and Carway adjacent to Police Outpost Provincial Park. Payne Lake Provincial Recreation Area, Alberta (N49˚6’ W113˚38’ is a reservoir recreation area located between Mountain View and Waterton Lakes NP and offering wildlife viewing and hiking. Police Outpost Provincial Park, Alberta (N49˚0’ W113˚28’), is on the US-Canadian border between Chief Mountain and Carway and offers reservoir recreation, wildlife viewing, and hiking.

Remington Carriage Museum Provincial Historic Site, Alberta (N49˚12’ W113˚18’) is located on Route 2 (Main Street) in Cardston, exhibiting 270 horse-drawn carriages from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, making it the largest collection of horse-drawn transportation. Ross Lake Natural Area, Alberta (N49˚7’ W112˚54’), is a hunting area located two miles south of Ross Lake and west of Route 62. St. Mary Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area, Alberta (N49˚22’ W113˚7’) is a reservoir recreation area at St. Mary Dam on Route 505 north of Cardston. The park includes the dam tailwater, the lower right bank, and an island in the reservoir. The reservoir is an Important Bird Area for California gull, with a colony of 2,000 nests, and American white pelican. Sluice Boxes State Park, Montana, includes a 7.5-mile trail following an old railroad grade through Belt Creek Canyon, featuring cliffs and ledges. The trail extends from Riceville on US 89 (N47˚13’ W110˚56’) south to the Logging Creek Bridge on Forest Highway 839 in the Lewis and Clark NF (N47˚8’ W110˚56’).

 Smith River State Park, Montana, is the site of a 59-mile-long river float beginning at Camp Baker (N46˚48’ W111˚11’) and ending at the Eden Bridge (N47˚14’ W111˚23’).  The river gorge cuts through the Little Belt Mountains. Camp sites are provided in the Lewis and Clark and Helena NFs. Smith River Wildlife Management Area, Montana (N46˚43’ W 111˚10’) is 3,312 acres along the Smith River north of Fort Logan managed for mule deer winter range. Sun River Wildlife Management Area, Montana (N47˚35’ W112˚38’), is 19,771 acres west of Augusta and south of the Sun River. It includes the Sawtooth Ridge and grasslands to the east.

Beatrice Taylor Field Station, Montana State University (N47˚49’ W112˚26’), is on the Willow Creek Anticline, the bone bed containing the richest dinosaur nesting site in North America, commonly called Egg Mountain. Fossil fragments from juvenile, embryonic, hatchling, and adult duckbill dinosaurs are found at this location. This is not a public access site. Tower Rock State Park, Montana (N47˚11’ W111˚49’), is a 400-foot rock formation on the Missouri River noted by Lewis and Clark. It is located on I-15, exit 250 at Hardy. Waterton Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area, Alberta (N49˚20’ W113˚41’) is a reservoir recreation area on Route 505. Woolford Provincial Park, Alberta (N49˚11’ W113˚11’) is east of Cardston on Township Road 30a off Route 503 and features hiking trails in a riparian cottonwood forest.

Private sites in the Montana Valley and Foothill Grasslands include hot springs and conservation organization areas. Boulder Hot Springs, Montana (N46˚12’ W112˚6’) is south of I-15 Exit 164 off State Route 69. Bozeman Hot Springs, Montana (N45˚41’ W111˚11’) is on U.S. 191 ten miles west of Bozeman, with nine soaking pools. Chico Hot Springs, Montana (N45˚20’ W110˚33’) is in the Paradise Valley off US 89, 35 miles north of Yellowstone National Park. Fairmont Hot Springs, Montana (N46˚2’ W112˚49’) is west of Butte at Exit 211 on I-90. Jackson Hot Springs, Montana (N45˚22’ W113˚24’) is in the Big Hole Valley on State Secondary Route 278. Norris Hot Springs, Montana (N45˚34’ W111˚41’), has soaking pools on State Route 84 in the Madison River valley. White Sulphur Hot Springs, Montana (N46˚33’ W110˚54’) is on US 12-89 in the Smith River valley.

Crown Butte Preserve, The Nature Conservancy, Montana (N47˚26’ W111˚56’), is an undisturbed native grassland on a mountain rising 900 feet above the prairie near state route 200 south of Simms. Madison Valley, Montana (N45˚14’ W111˚45’ north to N45˚26’ W111˚41’ (Ennis Lake)), contains riparian cottonwood and willow habitats bordered by shortgrass prairie. It is an IBA for bald eagle, willow flycatcher, American redstart, and red-naped sapsucker. Ennis Lake contains major waterfowl concentrations including common loon. Pine Butte Swamp Preserve, Nature Conservancy, Montana (N47˚52’ W112˚33’). The 100,000-acre preserve is run as a ranch resort. It is the largest wetland complex on the Rocky Mountain front and a grizzly bear stronghold.

Ronan Rough-Legged Hawk Roost, Montana (N47˚31’ W114˚2’) is on the eastern side of the Mission Valley on private lands near Ronan within the boundaries of the Flathead Reservation.  The largest known roost of rough-legged hawks is located here. The hawks are attracted to large numbers of voles in the valley. The site is an IBA. Safe Harbor Marsh Preserve, Nature Conservancy, Montana (N47˚47’ W114˚9’) is a low elevation marsh connected to Flathead Lake, located north of Polson. The site is an IBA. Sun Ranch, Montana (N44˚58’ W111˚38) is a 19,000-acre property between the Madison River and the Lee Metcalf Wilderness under conservation easement, providing critical big game winter range for elk, mule deer, moose, bighorn, pronghorn, and mountain goat.  Research is conducted on the compatibility of wolves and cattle ranching, as well as grassland biodiversity and trout recovery.  The site is an IBA for sage grouse and Brewer’s sparrow. Two Medicine Dinosaur Center, Bynum, Montana (N47˚59’ W112˚19’) provides field paleontology workshops at dinosaur sites on the Rocky Mountain front. Weston Family Conservation Center and Waterton Park Front, The Nature Conservancy, Alberta (N49˚10’ W113˚50’) provides an overview of 32,000 acres protected in conservation easements adjacent to Waterton Lakes National Park along Route 6.  The visitor center has a short nature trail.



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