Plan Your Visit


"If you travel much in the wilder sections of our country, sooner or later you are likely to meet the sign of the flying goose - the emblem of the national wildlife refuges. Wherever you meet this sign, respect it. It means that the land behind the sign has been dedicated by the American people to preserving, for themselves and their children, as much as our native wildlife as can be retained along with our modern civilization." - Rachel Carson


Turn north on Montana Highway 16 off U.S. Highway 2 at Culbertson. Follow Highway 16 north for approximately 22 miles until you reach Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), which is marked with a large entrance sign on North Shore Road.

The town of Medicine Lake is located near the northwest boundary of the Medicine Lake NWR. The Fort Peck Indian Reservation borders the west boundary. The towns of Plentywood and Culbertson are about 20 miles equidistant north and south, respectively, along Montana State Highway 16.

Wildlife Drive

The wildlife drive begins on the entrance road to the Refuge Headquarters which follows the north shore of Medicine Lake heading east from Highway 16. The drive traverses 14 miles of wetland and grassland habitat. As you travel east, you will pass by lakes and ponds that support many different species. Placards are positioned along the drive to give visitors more information on natural and cultural resources as well as management practices. Visitors can continue on to the pelican overlook. This handicapped-accessible viewing platform provides binoculars so visitors can observe the American white pelican colony on Big Island and/or Bridgerman Point. Also look for great blue heron, black-crowned night heron, and double crested cormorants as well as several gull and tern species nesting on Bridgerman Point.

The condition of the gravel roads throughout the Refuge is usually good, but we may issue temporary closures if rain or snow cause the roads to become hazardous. During the hunting season (Sept 30 - Jan 1), a portion of the Wildlife Drive is closed to travel to protect migratory birds. During this time you may still access the east section of the wildlife drive via East Lake Highway.

Sandhills Wilderness Area

For peace and quiet, spend some time in the Sandhills Wilderness Area. This unique sandy habitat showcases plants not found anywhere else on the Refuge.

Sharp Tailed Grouse Observation Blind

The Refuge has an observation blind near a sharp-tailed grouse dancing ground, providing an excellent opportunity to get an up-close view of this fascinating ritual of nature.

Each spring male sharp-tailed grouse return to traditional breeding grounds, called leks. With white tails pointed skyward, they stomp their feet at a frantic pace, creating a drumming noise. Between displays, they make gurgling noises by expelling air from the purple sac located on either side of their neck. On a calm day, their commotion can be heard from more than a mile away.

Dancing is most intense during the morning hours, but evenings can also yield some action. Morning visitors should plan to arrive at the blind about one hour before sunrise and stay until the birds are done displaying for the day (usually 1 to 2 hours after sunrise).

The observation blind is available for free seven days a week, from mid-April to the end of May on a reservation basis. The blind fits two to four people, three camp stools are provided. The blind is approximately a 2 1/4 mile drive east from the Refuge Headquarters, and only about 100 yards south of the road.

Reservations and directions can be obtained at the Refuge Headquarters (406-789-2305). Remember your video and/or digital camera.

Approximate Sunrise Times
Early April     06:30 
Mid April     06:10
Late April     05:45 
Early May     05:30 
Mid May     05:15
Late May     05:00
Early June     04:45

Grouse blind Video