Plan Your Visit

American White Pelicans

Bowdoin NWR provides visitors of all abilities with wildlife-dependent recreation, interpretation, and environmental education opportunities that foster an appreciation and understanding of the unique wildlife, plant communities, and cultural resources of the Montana Prairie Pothole Region.

Bowdoin NWR provides numerous recreation opportunities to visitors every year. People enjoy viewing the unique geology and diverse wildlife, whether driving, hiking, or hunting. Regulation of recreation activities allow for public enjoyment of the refuge while still protecting the wildlife and habitats.  

Office hours are from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm, Monday-Friday.  The refuge is open for public use from sunrise to sunset, except during hunting season when hunters are allowed reasonable time to access hunting areas when arriving before dawn and when leaving after dusk.  The entrance gate closes automatically ½ hour after sunset.  Visitors may access the refuge by travelling east on old Hwy 2,  just outside of Malta, for approximately 7 miles. Located at the refuge headquarters area are an "informational" and a "hunter welcome" kiosk, both with informational materials, and the beginning of the graveled, self-guided, 15 mile auto tour road. There is also additional informational materials in the office entry area, as well as knowledgeable staff inside the office to assist you. Visitors must maintain the posted speed limit of 25 miles per hour while driving on the refuge. Parking is allowed in designated parking areas and pullouts, but you may also pull over wherever it is safe to do so. No overnight parking or camping is allowed on the refuge. 

Hiking is allowed in all areas open to the public most of the year, where wildlife observation and photography are encouraged. The tour route will take you through the closed-to-hunting portion of the refuge where hiking beyond the road is not permitted from September 1 - November 30.  Please stay out of closed areas to minimize disturbance to plants and animals, and remain on the Auto Tour during this time in the fall.  Areas open to hunting during this portion are open to hiking. 

All terrain vehicles (ATVs) must be street legal and remain on the auto tour road, and abide by all vehicle regulations.  Bicycling is allowed only on the auto tour road. Horseback riding is not allowed.  Because the refuge is a breeding and rearing area for birds and other wildlife, dogs must be kept on a leash from April 15-August 15 to protect wildlife and their young. There is no fishing on the refuge.  Boating is permitted only during the waterfowl hunting season and only in areas open to the public.  Boat motors are limited to a maximum of 25 horsepower.

Hunting of waterfowl, upland game birds, mourning doves, and sandhill cranes is permitted on the refuge in accordance with all state and federal regulations. Big game hunting is not allowed on the refuge.  Hunters should consult the Montana state hunting regulations for further information. Special refuge hunting regulations also apply. Trapping may occur for wildlife management purposes as prescribed by the manager, with a Special Use Permit.

Firearms and other weapons are subject to State law. At all times, persons possessing, transporting, or carrying firearms on the refuge must comply with all provisions of State law. Firearms may only be discharged in accordance with refuge hunting regulations, i.e., only during the lawful pursuit of game during legal seasons.  

Other prohibitions on the refuge are off-road vehicles, snowmobiling, collecting of plants, animals, minerals, antlers, and artifacts.

Lodging is available in the town of Malta. Listings are available through the Malta Chamber of Commerce at (406) 654-1776, or at, or email: Telephones, gas, supplies are available year-round in Malta, as well as camping opportunities.


For questions about recreation, please contact the refuge office.