About the Refuge

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Swan River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was acquired by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1973 to be managed for the benefit of migratory birds. This 1,568 acre Refuge is part of the Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge Complex and is administered by the Refuge staff at Benton Lake NWR located just north of Great Falls, Montana.

Nestled between the Swan Mountains to the east and the Mission Mountains to the west, the Refuge lies south of Swan Lake, within the Swan River flood plain. The Swan River valley was formed when glacial ice poured down the steep slopes of the Mission Range into Swan Lake. The valley floor is generally flat but rises steeply to adjacent forested mountain sides. Swan River once meandered widely through the floodplain, but silt deposits gradually forced the river to flow along the west side of the valley, leaving a series of oxbow sloughs within the Refuge floodplain.

Approximately 1,254 acres of the Refuge consists of wetland/grassland habitat. Dense stands of reed canary grass are mixed with native reeds and sedges. Every spring, when snowpack begins to melt, run-off from Bond Creek, Yew Creek, and Spring Creek merge with the inundated Swan River and Swan Lake to flood large portions of the Refuge. The remaining Refuge acreage consists of forested uplands dominated by old growth fir, spruce, cedar, and larch. In places, large cottonwood trees shade the banks of the Swan River.