Plan Your Visit

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The Refuge was established in 1964 to provide habitat for migratory birds. The Refuge name honors U.S. Senator Lee Metcalf, who had a lifelong commitment to conservation. Senator Metcalf was a graduate of the local high school and was instrumental in the establishment of this refuge and many others in the United States.


Refuge VisionFishing
RecreationWildlife Observation & Photography
Refuge Access            Environmental Education
Visitor CenterInterpretation

Refuge Vision

 "Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge is a representation of the diverse native wildlife habitat once found abundantly between the Bitterroot and Sapphire Mountains and along the ever-changing Bitterroot River. This floodplain refuge, fed by mountain snow, is a diverse mosaic of forest, grassland, and riparian habitat that provides protected lands and waters for migratory and resident wildlife. 

The refuge, in partnership with its neighbors, friends, and the community, is a conservation leader in the valley, ensuring that the biological integrity of this refuge and other valley habitats remains intact or, where appropriate, is restored. 

These protected lands and waters are a place of discovery for visitors to experience fish and wildlife firsthand and where children can experience nature with all their senses. Visitors to the refuge can appreciate the beauty of the setting and experience a sense of wonder and pride to be preserving this part of the Bitterroot Valley and the National Wildlife Refuge System."    

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Lee Metcalf NWR provides numerous wildlife-dependent recreation opportunities to thousands of visitors every year in the form of hunting, fishing, wildlife observation,  photography, environmental education and interpretation. These recreation activities allow for public enjoyment of the refuge while still protecting the wildlife and habitats.  

Full Moon Over Refuge over the Bitterroot Mountains

Refuge Access

The refuge is open from sunrise to sunset. Visitors access the refuge via Wildfowl Lane (County Road) that intersects Eastside Highway on the east and south ends of the Refuge. Wildfowl Lane is a combination asphalt and gravel substrate with a posted speed limit of 25 miles per hour. No overnight parking or camping is allowed on the refuge. 

Visitor Center Interior

Visitor Center 

The Refuge Visitor Center is open from 8 am - 4:30 pm five days/week (Monday-Friday) year long. The Visitor Center has taxidermy mounts of many local bird species. Other displays, materials are mammal-centric, i.e. furs, antlers and horns. Volunteers and staff are in attendance to serve informational needs.

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Waterfowl hunting and white-tailed deer archery hunting is permitted on the refuge in accordance with all state and federal regulations. Hunters should consult the Montana state hunting regulations. Refuge specific hunting regulations also apply.

Trout Captured in Fish Trap


Refuge anglers must adhere to the fishing regulations designated by Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks. Designated fishing sites are located in the Wildlife Viewing Area (map in Hunting & Fishing Brochure) and include Francois Slough and the Bitterroot River shoreline. A fishing platform is located along the paved portion of the Wildlife Viewing Area nature trail at a water control structure that moves water from Francois Slough to the Bitterroot River. The area where Francois Slough intersects the Bitterroot River provides shallow water habitat with a solid gravel bottom that is used for fly fishing. There are no boat launches within the refuge (it is prohibited). However, people can float and fish the part of the Bitterroot River that passes through the refuge, but they must remain below the high watermark and must not access the refuge from the river.     

Refuge Staff Photographing Landscape

Wildlife Observation and Photography

Opportunities for wildlife observation and photography are located at or along the following places: (1) the Wildlife Viewing Area; (2) Refuge Headquarters/Visitor Center area (3) Kenai Nature Trail; and (4) Wildfowl Lane, the County Road that runs through the refuge. Visitors must follow refuge regulations to protect wildlife and their habitats while enjoying the opportunity to view and photograph them. Review the Refuge General Brochure for finer details. 

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Environmental Education

Environmental education provided by Refuge staff/volunteers is a process designed to teach citizens and other visitors the history and importance of conservation and share scientific knowledge of our Nation’s natural resources. Through this process, we can help develop a citizenry with the awareness, knowledge, attitudes, skills, motivation, and commitment to work cooperatively towards the conservation of our Nation’s environmental resources. Environmental education at Lee Metcalf NWR incorporates on-site, offsite, and distance learning materials, activities, and programs that address the audience’s wants/needs supported by the basic facts of about the Refuge: purposes, physical attributes, ecosystem dynamics, conservation strategies, and the Refuge System mission. The refuge headquarters has a conference room (the Okefenokee Room), an outdoor amphitheater and an two environmental education shelters for refuge programs.

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Interpretation products and programming by Refuge staff provides opportunities for visitors to make their own connections to resources. By providing opportunities to connect to the resource, interpretation provokes participation in resource stewardship. It helps refuge visitors understand their relationships to, and impacts on, those resources.


Prohibitions on the refuge include: dogs off-leash; drone aircraft; off-road vehicles; and collecting (whole or parts, dead or alive materials) of plants, animals, minerals, antlers and artifacts.

Lodging is available in Stevensville, Montana and throughout the Bitterroot Valley. Listings are available through the Bitterroot Valley Chamber of Commerce at (406) 363-2400. Groceries, gas and supplies are available year-round in nearby Stevensville.

For driving directions, please visit our Maps page.

For questions about visitor services, please contact the refuge office.