Visitor Activities


Encompassing approximately 1.1 million acres, Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge provides a rare opportunity to experience wild lands and wildlife in a natural setting. Visitors to the Refuge can enjoy Refuge wildlife and scenic grandeur in nearly the same surroundings as encountered by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805.

  • Hunting

    Hunting on the Refuge is subject to Federal and State regulations and a Montana hunting license is required.

    Big Game Hunting 

    Mule deer, antelope and elk hunting are very popular on the Refuge. Mule deer are found throughout the entire Refuge and numbers will vary from year to year. Elk occur on most parts of the Refuge with the exception of the area around the Big Dry Arm. Bighorn sheep hunting is permitted on the Refuge, but permits are limited. Some white-tailed deer inhabit riparian areas along the Missouri River and its tributaries, but are not nearly as common as mule deer.

    Small Game Hunting

    Sage grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, pheasants and grey partridge occur on the Refuge. Small game numbers fluctuate considerably from year-to-year, depending on winter survival and spring nesting conditions. Dove hunting opportunities are also available on the Refuge, but the window of opportunity is short as doves usually migrate out of this area by early September. Huntable populations of ducks and geese also occur along the Fort Peck Reservoir and the Missouri River. Most hunting opportunity is in the fields where birds go out to feed, but many islands on free-flowing portions of the river provide a good quality hunting opportunity.

    See the Rules and Regulations page for the current year's refuge-specific regulations and visit Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks for state licenses and regulations.

    Accessible Hunting

    There are two accessible hunting and wildlife viewing blinds on the refuge, one located near Hell Creek State Park and the other on the west end in Manning Bottoms.


  • Fishing

    Boating and fishing is permitted on the Missouri River and Fort Peck Reservoir. Numerous boat ramps and several marinas are located around the Refuge. Fishing for walleye, sauger, paddlefish, and northern pike, among other species, is very popular. A Montana state license is required, and state limits and seasons apply. Information on water levels can be found on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Fort Peck Project website.

    The uppermost 12 miles of the Missouri River within the Refuge form part of the Wild and Scenic Missouri River which offers spectacular scenery and is a popular canoeing river. Please contact the Bureau of Land Management, Missouri River Breaks National Monument,  for information on recreation opportunities and seasonal motor boat restrictions on the Wild and Scenic portions of the Missouri River. 


  • Wildlife Viewing and Photography

    The Refuge is home to many species of wildlife. Sixty species of mammals and more than 235 species of birds have been observed on the Refuge. Bird watching provides opportunities to see many northern prairie grassland species such as western meadowlarks, mountain plovers, chestnut-collared longspurs, and prairie falcons. A refuge Bird List is available. Large ungulates such as elk, mule deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep are common, while native predators like coyote, bobcat, and mountain lion are secretive and not commonly seen. 

    Auto Tour Route

    A self-guided auto tour route, which may be accessed from two points along Highway 191 on the west side of the Refuge, provides visitors the chance to see the Refuge close-up and gain a better understanding of Refuge resources. The tour route follows an all-weather gravel road that parallels the Missouri River before climbing out onto upland prairie and rolling rangeland. Interpretive stops along the route provide information on the wildlife, geology, and history of this unique landscape. This auto tour route is 19 miles long and takes 2-3 hours to complete.

    Slippery Ann Elk Viewing Area

    The very popular elk viewing area is located on the west end of the Refuge along the Auto Tour Route. During the elk breeding season (September and October), large numbers of elk congregate at the Slippery Ann Elk Viewing Area. Peak numbers of bull elk in the rut can be viewed around the second and third weeks of September.

    Hiking/Walking Trails

    Hiking is allowed anywhere on the Refuge but there are also established trails scattered around the Refuge with varying levels of development and accessibility. On the east side of the Refuge there are several paved, accessible walking trails near the Fort Peck Dam Interpretive Center and Museum. Two hiking trails originate in Hell Creek State Park on the south side and there is an accessible trail near the headquarters building in Lewistown which features native plants. 

  • Interpretation

    A variety of brochures and informational materials are available at the Refuge headquarters and all Wildlife Field Stations. Numerous interpretive panels are found throughout the Refuge including the Slippery Ann Wildlife Viewing Area, the entrance to UL Bend NWR, and at Hell Creek. 

    Fort Peck Dam Interpretive Center and Museum

    Fort Peck hosts the fascinating Fort Peck Dam Interpretive Center and Museum, a cooperative effort among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Army Corps of Engineers. Museum exhibits have a three-fold focus: wildlife of the CMR, dinosaurs of the Cretaceous period, and the construction of the Fort Peck Dam. In summer, the museum is the epicenter of our environmental education and interpretation programs. During this season, we present a variety of topical speakers, themed weekends and children’s nature-oriented arts and crafts programs.

  • Environmental Education

    During the school year, presentations centered on the CMR and its place in the National Wildlife Refuge System are offered, as well as a skins and skulls match up and an endangered species touch program. In addition, educational trunks are available for loan with complete lesson plan options on subjects as diverse as: the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery, weather, trees, wolves, songbirds, bugs, dinosaurs and fossils, and the solar system. Contact the refuge to schedule a presentation and contact the Fort Peck Dam Interpretive Center to reserve an educational trunk.