About the Refuge


UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge is part of a complex of refuges managed by Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge from the headquarters station in Lewistown, Montana. Because the UL Bend Refuge lies within the boundary area of the Charles M. Russell Refuge, essentially they are managed as one unit even though they were established through different authorities and for different purposes.

UL Bend NWR was established through the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission on February 7, 1967. On March 25, 1969, Public Land Order 4588 designated the UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge on about 56,090 acres (revoking Executive Order 7509, the establishment of the Fort Peck Game Range, on those lands). The order defined the refuge’s purpose: “for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds”. Early development plans called for the construction of a series of dikes in the interior of the refuge to convert uplands to aquatic habitat for waterfowl. Some attempts were made toward this development, but these were never completed, and the plans were abandoned. Although it was primarily established for the development and management of waterfowl, other wildlife that use refuge habitat includes the endangered black-footed ferret, elk, deer, pronghorn, migratory birds, and other prairie species. 

UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge is located north of the Missouri River about 50 miles south of Malta, Montana, in Phillips County. Bison, elk, deer, and pronghorn historically used the crossing at this huge bend in the Missouri River, and the abundance of game attracted Native Americans including the Assiniboine, Gros Ventre, and the Blackfeet. Explorer Meriwether Lewis noted the following in his journal on May 21, 1805: “The Missouri in its course downward makes a suddon and extensive bend toward the south, to receive the Muscle shell river, the point of country thus formed tho’ high is still much lower than that surrounding it, thus forming a valley of wavey country which extends itself for a great distance in a Northerly direction; the soil is fertile, produces a fine turf of low grass and some herbs, also immence quantities of the Prickley pear, without a stick of timber of any description.” In 1896, Oren and Will Bachues established a ranch in the “Big Bend of the Missouri River.” The place became known as UL Bend after the ranch’s stock brand.

In 1976, Congress designated 20,819 acres of the Refuge as the UL Bend Wilderness. Within this designated wilderness area, visitors can expect to experience undeveloped land that has kept its primeval character providing an opportunity for solitude and unconfined recreation.