UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge


UL Bend Wilderness
In the UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge
Black-footed ferret at UL Bend Wilderness

The Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge runs upstream on the Missouri River for about 125 miles from the Fort Peck Dam, and covers about 1,100,000 acres (including about 245,000 acres of Fort Peck Reservoir). Within the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge is the 56,048-acre UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge, and within that is the 20,819 acres of the UL Bend Wilderness.

This remote area has probably seen more T Rex than humans, although the Lewis and Clark Expedition did paddle through here more than 200 years ago (and they wrote a lot about the abundance of wildlife and the ruggedness of the countryside). And these days, the Missouri is a designated Wild and Scenic River to the west of here and carries quite a few kayakers, canoers and rafters through the area.

Inside the UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge, the UL Bend Wilderness itself is broken into 4 units: 3 small and 1 large, all on the north side of the river and mostly along the shore. The area is primarily sagebrush and open grassland with no maintained trails but hiking, camping and horseback riding are allowed and unrestricted (certified weed-free hay for the horses, please). Hunting and fishing are allowed in season, too. You'll find populations of mule deer, pronghorn, elk and bighorn sheep on the property.

The UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge and Wilderness were selected in the 1990's as a good area to reintroduce the most endangered mammal in North America: the black-footed ferret. One reason for the choice is the large number of prairie dogs running around here: Black-footed ferrets are carnivorous and prairie dogs are their favorite lunch. And after lunch, the ferrets tend to move into the recently vacated prairie dog burrows and raise their own young there. To encourage further growth in the ferret population, refuge staff are also working to improve conditions for the black-tailed prairie dogs to feed, breed and build new prairie dog towns.

There is also a reintroduction program for the endangered pallid sturgeon happening in this area of the Missouri River.

UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge area map
UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge area map
Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge map
Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge map: Click on the map to get a larger version