Geology of the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and Centennial Valley of Montana
The geologic history and topography of the
Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and Centennial Valley has greatly influenced it as a haven for wildlife and plants that define its present day ecological environment.
The Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is an isolated wilderness in the state of Montana in the western United States that is bounded by scenic mountain ranges separated by the isolated Centennial Valley which is over 45 miles long and averages six miles wide. It is home to a diverse set of birds, mammals and plants that have adapted well to their unique geologic setting. The valley consists of wetlands that provide good seasonal feeding and breeding grounds for many birds like the Trumpeter Swan and several species of other water fowl. The forests growing on the slopes of the surrounding mountains host deer, elk, fox, wolves, coyotes, marmots, wolverines and bear. The wetlands support antelope, moose, beaver, badger, otters, squirrels and more. The creeks and ponds support several species of native fish, including the Arctic Grayling. In the spring, wildflowers bloom to add the finishing touch to this beautiful wilderness.
Upper and Lower Red Rock Lakes are two shallow lakes that are surrounded by many life-supporting wetlands. On the south, the east-west trending Centennial Range (10300') dominates the valley with steep vertical faces rising over 3,000 feet, and on the north, are the Gravelly (10,542') and Snowcrest (10,581') Ranges. The Henry's Lake mountains and the continental divide close off the valley on the east. Most of the valley was covered by a large lake between 30,000 and 17,000 years ago. The remnants of that pre-historic lake are the Upper & Lower Red Rock Lakes which are seasonally host to a large variety of birds, including the Trumpeter Swan, for which the wildlife refuge was established in 1935 to help bring back from near extinction.
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The Centennial Valley is surrounded by scenic mountain ranges, and not far from Yellowstone National Park. It is an area that has a rich geologic history of glaciers, mountain building and volcanism.