From the frenzy of a marsh to the chorus of grassland birds at dawn, the bright colors of a mountain bluebird in the foothills, and a Clark’s nutcracker flapping across breathtaking mountains, the birding trails in Central Montana are packed with amazing sights and sounds for bird lovers. Dramatic cliffs provide an abundance of secure nesting sites for birds along the North American migration route. Lakes, prairie marshes, fens, and rivers act as bird magnets throughout Montana’s Basecamp. During the spring migration, tens of thousands of snow geese visit Freezeout Lake. While they wait for Canadian wetlands to thaw, the snow geese fill the skies when they lift off in awesome flocks to feed in nearby grain fields. Birders can view the courtship dance of the sharp-tailed grouse from a blind at Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge every spring. Montana has more bird watchers per capita than any other state, and Great Falls provides for abundance and diversity!
Freezeout Lake | Highway 89, 5 minutes North of Fairfield, Montana | 406-467-2646
Freezeout Lake is Montana’s primary snow goose staging area, where as many as 300,000 snow geese and 10,000 tundra swans gather and rest before flying onward. In Spring, the snow geese head for Alberta and central Saskatchewan in Canada. The Snow Geese reach Freezeout Lake in early March, where they rest up from a nearly 1,000-mile [1,609 km] flight from California. Freezeout Lake offers year-round opportunities for viewing wildlife, including upland game birds and raptors in winter, waterfowl migrations in spring and fall, and waterfowl and shorebirds in summer.
Benton Lake Wildlife Refuge | 922 Bootlegger Trail | 406-727-7400
The gently rolling terrain of Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge is surrounded by native prairie grass and surrounded by mountain ranges on three sides. Benton Lake protects, enhances, and restores the Nation’s wildlife heritage. Covering 12,383 acres, the Refuge is a 6,000-acre shallow wetland created by the last continental glacier thousands of years ago. By Executive Order of President Herbert Hoover in 1929, Benton Lake was set aside as a “refuge and breeding ground for birds.” Today, you can take a leisurely drive to the Refuge, walk on the deck that surrounds the Refuge, and enjoy the variety of birds, wildlife, and natural beauty year-round.
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