Visitor Activities

People fish along the rocky embankment of the still and reflecting Ninepipe Reservoir at Ninepipe NWR.  Photo by Steve Hillebrand, USFWS

Visitors are encouraged to observe or photograph wildlife, fish, hike, cross-country ski, snowshoe, or ice skate throughout the refuge, except in seasonally closed areas. 


  • Accessibility Information

    Equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from programs and activities of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is available to all individuals regardless of physical or mental ability. Dial 711 for a free connection to the State relay service for TTY and voice calls to and from the speech and hearing impaired. For information or to address accessibility needs, please contact the Refuge staff at 406 / 644 2211, or the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Equal Opportunity, 1849 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20240. 

  • Fishing

    Youth learn about ice fishing at Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge.  Photo by Mike Koole, NBRC/USFWS

    Sportfish in the reservoir include yellow perch and largemouth bass. In order to protect migratory birds, the Refuge has prohibited the use lead sinkers or lead-based lures. Casting and wading are the only means to fish the open water as flotation devices and boats are not allowed on the reservoir. Anglers are restricted from accessing the off shore islands, as these are important nesting areas.

    In accordance with State law and the Joint State/Tribal Agreement, anglers must possess a joint Flathead Reservation Use and Conservation Permit and Fishing Stamp. For limits, seasons and other regulations, refer to the Flathead Indian Reservation Fishing Regulations.

    To fulfill the Refuge’s mission, access is restricted during different seasons to provide security for birds. The entire refuge is closed during migratory waterfowl hunting season (typically early October to early January). After waterfowl season, ice fishing is permitted on the full refuge until the end of February. People who choose to ice fish should use caution and know the ice conditions. From March 1 until July 15, fishing is permitted only in Area 1 (for map, check out the Ninepipe Public Use Pamphlet).  From July 15 until the start of waterfowl season, the entire refuge again opens to fishing.

    Ninepipe Family Fishing Pond is open to all anglers and is located on Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks lands adjacent to Ninepipe NWR at the Watchable Wildlife Viewing Site off Highway 93. The pond is open to family fishing but all adults (anglers 15 years and older) are required to release their catch.

  • Birdwatching and Wildlife Viewing

    Birdwatchers walk the Ninepipe Wildlife Viewing Trail to check out the birds along the shore and in the water.  Photo by Liz Lodman, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks

    Established in 1921 to function as a “refuge and breeding grounds for native birds” (Executive Order 3503), Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge lives up to its purpose by providing habitat for close to 200 species of birds. The Refuge supports an abundance of species and offers remarkable birding opportunities. 

    Please remember you are visitors to the Refuge and restrain from disturbing wildlife. Do no use electronic or game calls, including elk and bird calls, which can cause stress on animals as well as disrupt opportunities for other visitors. 

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  • Wildlife and Nature Photography

    Tree ablaze with autumn gold reflected in still waters of Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge.  Photo by Dave Fitzpatrick, Volunteer NBR/USFWS

    Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge provides incredible open vistas to photograph, with the added bonus of abundant bird activities such as feeding, flying and courtship. Large mammal species are restricted to white-tail deer and coyote, although grizzly bears from the Mission Mountains will occasionally visit the wetlands to graze on sedges and hunt for mice and voles. Please remember you are visitors to the Refuge, so restrain from disturbing wildlife. Do no use electronic or game calls, including elk and bird calls, which can cause stress on animals as well as disrupt opportunities for other visitors.

    One of the best photographic opportunities is of the Mission Mountains (heights to 9,800 feet in elevation) across the main sweep of the Reservoir from the top of the dam (Ninepipe Road). The lighting in the evening is especially good as you will be facing east to the mountains reflecting in the water and have the sun behind you. Please remember that the Refuge, with the exception of access across the dam (Ninepipe Road – no stopping at night), closes to all public use at night.

  • Hunting

    A large group of Bald Eagles, adults and juveniles, lounge on the surface of a frozen pond.  Photo by Ronald L Bell, USFWS

    Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge is closed to all hunting.

    Adjoining state-owned lands are managed for wildlife cover, food production and public hunting of upland game birds and waterfowl. The closure of Ninepipe NWR enhances the quality of hunting in the Mission Valley by providing a sanctuary which may keep more birds in the area for a longer period of time. Check with Montana State law and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal recreation regulations for information, regulations and licensing for hunting on neighboring lands.