About the Refuge

overlooking CMR

Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge's expansive badlands, cottonwood river bottoms, forested coulees, sagebrush steppes and mixed-grass prairies appear out of the sea that is the northern Great Plains.


Together, Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge and UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge encompass an area of 1.1 million acres that span about 125 air miles along the Missouri River, from the Fort Peck Dam west to the boundary with the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. Located within the boundary of CMR Refuge, UL Bend is, in essence, a refuge within a refuge. The Service manages these refuges as one. 

Given the size and remoteness of CMR, the area has changed very little from the historic voyage of the Lewis and Clark expedition, through the era of outlaws and homesteaders, to the present time. Elk, mule deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, sage and sharp-tailed grouse, and bald eagles make the Refuge home. Visitors will find spectacular examples of native prairie, forested coulees, river bottoms, and "breaks" badlands so often portrayed in the paintings of the colorful artist for whom this Refuge is named.

Hunting and fishing opportunities abound on Charles M. Russell NWR. Boating is popular on the Missouri River and Fort Peck Reservoir. Several state parks and recreational areas have been developed within the Refuge and excellent wildlife viewing and photography opportunities are found throughout the Refuge. Each fall, hundreds of elk congregate in the Slippery Ann Wildlife Viewing Area, creating a spectacle not to be missed. Camping, hiking and horseback riding are permitted. 

Charles M. Russell NWR is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Refuge is one of over 550 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System - a system of lands set aside to conserve wildlife and habitat for people today and generations to come. It is the second largest national wildlife refuge in the lower 48 states.