Visitor Activities

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Red-necked Grebe with striped headed chicks. 

Northwest Montana Wetland Management District Flathead County WPAs are closed from March 1 – July 15 each year to limit disturbance to resting migrating birds and help protect nesting waterfowl and other wetland birds.
All WPAs are open from 1 hour before sunrise to 1 hour after sunset. Overnight parking or camping is prohibited.

  • Wildlife Viewing

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    The Northwest Wetland Management District Flathead County offers a variety of wildlife viewing opportunities – both big and small! Smith Lake WPA is an excellent area to view waterfowl and shorebirds. This unique complex of large shallow wetlands and dry coniferous forest is a year round haven for birds and other wildlife. Ashley Creek flows through Batavia WPA which is comprised of rolling grasslands and a series of dikes and man-made wetlands idea for nesting Canada Geese, Mallards and other grassland nesting ducks. Blasdel WPA is the only sizeable piece of public land in the “Lower Valley” south of Kalispell. This WPA has abundant birds in both wetland and upland habitats as well as a healthy population of deer and small mammals. Flathead WPA is included as part of the North Shore Flathead Lake Important Bird Area (IBA). The area is an important refueling stop for tens of thousands of Central and Pacific migratory birds. Birds also use the offshore habitats as overwintering areas. Tundra and Trumpeter Swans are commonly seen as well as feeding shorebirds during spring and fall migration. The recently restored riparian and wetland habitats on McGregor Meadows WPA has benefited numerous species of waterfowl, shorebirds, waterbirds and Bald Eagles. Unlike many WPAs, McGregor Meadows WPA is natural native sedge/grass landscape which provides habitat for shallow to deep water bird species as well as grassland bird species.

    Birding Guide to Flathead Valley of Northwest Montana 

    Flathead Audubon 

    North Shore Flathead Lake Important Bird Area Map (IBA) 

    North Shore Flathead Lake Important Bird Area (IBA)  


  • Photography

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    Perhaps the fastest growing activity on national wildlife refuges in the past ten years has been wildlife photography.  That’s not surprising – the digital camera population explosion and cell phones with ever-improving picture-taking abilities are increasing the number of nature photographers at a rapid rate.  You don’t need to purchase expensive equipment or have any experience to get started.  A small camera or basic cell phone will do just fine for most visitors.

    Nearly 12 million people visit outdoor areas each year to photograph wildlife, and national wildlife refuges naturally are at the top of the list.  Refuges provide enhanced opportunities to photograph wildlife in natural habitats by providing platforms, brochures, interpreters, viewing areas, and tour routes.  Wildlife photography is a high-priority activity in the Refuge System.  We welcome beginning and expert photographers alike to record their outdoor adventures on film, memory card or internal hard drive! Contact us for more information on required Commercial Photography/Videography Special Use Permits.

    Porter's (Blasdel) Barn  

  • Hunting

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    Hunting is an important wildlife management tool that we recognize as a healthy, traditional outdoor pastime, deeply rooted in America’s heritage.  Hunting can instill a unique understanding and appreciate of wildlife, their behavior, and their habitat needs.

    Flathead, Blasdel and Batavia WPAs are restricted to hunting with archery equipment, shotgun, traditional handgun, muzzleloader or crossbow only. Only approved non-toxic shot may be used or possessed when hunting upland game birds and waterfowl.

    To find out more about hunting opportunities, seasons and regulations on Northwest Montana Wetland Management District Flathead County – refer to our brochure or contact us.

  • Fishing

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    Fishing is allowed on most waterfowl production areas within the Wetland Management District; however, fishing opportunities are limited as the majority of wetlands on Waterfowl Production Areas are seasonal or shallow and do not support fish populations. Boating is allowed on Flathead Lake, Smith Lake and the Flathead River. Motor boats must be operated at no wake speeds. State fishing licenses are required.

    To find out more about fishing opportunities, seasons and regulations on Northwest Montana Wetland Management District Flathead County – refer to our brochure or contact us.

  • Environmental Education

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    Wetland Management Districts serve many purposes, and one of our most important roles is as outdoor classrooms to teach about wildlife and natural resources. Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) provide unique and exciting outdoor environments – excellent locations for hands-on learning activities. Both Smith Lake WPA (Kila School) and Flathead WPA (Bigfork High School) have served as outdoor classrooms for school programs in the past.

    Is your school, youth, environmental or other group interested in learning more about the wildlife, plants, habitats and ecology of a particular WPA? Please contact Northwest Montana Wetland Management District Flathead County to talk about your potential visit. Refuges are wild places, and we want to teach you more about them!

    Kila School 

    Bigfork High School