Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge
A winter day at Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge
Until 1999, Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge was known as the Lost Trail Ranch, a sprawling 7,885-acre horse and cattle ranch that dated back to the late 1800's. Montana Power bought the property in 1996 to mitigate problems associated with an upstream power generation dam. Montana Power transferred 3,100 acres of the property to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in 1999 and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service bought the remainder of the wetlands and prairie that made up the ranch shortly thereafter. As one of the newest National Wildlife Refuges in the system, there have been very few visitor improvements made on this essentially unstaffed property. Management is done from an office at the National Bison Range.
Among the mammals found on this refuge are elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, moose, black bear, badger, lynx, marten, bobcat, wolverine, and the occasional gray wolf and grizzly bear. There's also more than 100 species of birds, including wood duck, sandhill crane, Canada geese, green-winged teal, heron, red-tailed hawk and great horned owl.
Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge is located north of US Highway 2, about 45 minutes west of Kalispell. From US Highway 2 at Marion, turn north on Pleasant Valley Road and go about 1.3 miles. Take the right at the fork and go to the end of the pavement. Then keep going for another 13 miles on the gravel road to the refuge headquarters. Lost Trail NWR is open to public use during daylight hours only. Portions of the refuge are open to hunting for deer, elk, mountain grouse and wild turkey during the appropriate Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks designated seasons.
A pine marten in native habitat
Other photos and map courtesy if the US Fish & Wildlife Service