Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Facility Rules and Policies

General Information
  • Access to particular areas of the Refuge may be limited seasonally to protect nesting birds and their young.
  • No overnight camping or overnight parking is allowed on the Refuge.
  • Fires are not permitted.
  • Please carry out all trash and dispose of it properly.
  • All wildlife and plants are protected, including rattlesnakes and other reptiles amphibians.
  • To protect nesting birds and other wildlife, pets must be leashed and remain on the Prairie Marsh Wildlife Drive, except during the hunting season in the Refuge hunt area.

Contact the Refuge headquarters at (406)727-7400 for questions regarding rules and regulations.

Roads and Parking
  • Prairie Marsh Wildlife Drive is open year-round; however, access may be limited due to inclement weather conditions.
  • Lower Marsh Road is open from July 15 until the opening of waterfowl hunting season.  Large vehicles (RVs or vehicles towing trailers) are not permitted on this road due to rough road conditions and tight turns at either end.
  • During the Refuge hunting season, Lower Marsh Road provides access to the hunt area; through travel is not permitted.
  • There are four designated visitor parking areas on the Refuge.  Pull off main roadway if stopped.  Do not block a trail, a gate, or another road.  During hunting season, refer to the Hunting Information handout for specific parking restrictions.
Wildlife Observation and Photography
  • Ample opportunities for viewing and photographing wildlife are available along the Prairie Marsh Wildlife Drive or Lower Marsh Road, especially in the early morning or evening.  Please note the Lower Marsh Road is open from July 15 until the opening of waterfowl hunting season.
  • A photography/observation blind, located on the Unit 1 wetland, is open year-round on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • A blind for observing the courting ritual of sharp-tailed grouse is available by reservation in April and May.
  • Privately-owned, temporary photography/observation blinds are allowed along the Prairie Marsh Wildlife Drive year-round.  These types of blinds are allowed in other selected areas by Special Use Permit only.  Contact the Refuge Manager for more information.
Non-Motorized Watercraft

Non-motorized watercraft are allowed only during the Refuge hunting season in the Refuge hunt area.

Refuge Hunting Regulations

Ducks, geese, coots, mergansers, tundra swans, gray partridge, ring-necked pheasant, and sharp-tailed grouse may be hunted as described in the following sections. Hunting rabbits or any other wildlife species, including furbearers (coyote, fox, raccoon, skunk, etc.), is prohibited.

  • Parking is permitted in designated parking areas only and is strictly enforced.
  • Current Federal and State regulations apply. Consult the Montana State Hunting Regulations for a complete list of State regulations (available at the Refuge headquarters, on-line at http://, and at sporting goods vendors in Montana).
Seasons / Hours
  • Hunting season begins opening day of waterfowl season and closes November 30. State seasons and hours apply within this time period.
Hunting Areas
  • Hunting is allowed only in the areas posted as “Public Hunting Area.” This area includes Units IVc, V, and VI (see map on the reverse side).
  • Hunting is not allowed on or within 25 yards of dikes or roads except the portion of the dike between Units V and VI shown on the map. However, you must have a means of bird retrieval, either a boat or a trained dog, while hunting on this dike.
  • Caution — water and muck near dikes may be very deep!
  • Access to the Refuge hunt area from other than authorized Refuge parking areas is prohibited (including along Wilson Road).
  • Please pack out any trash generated during your hunt, including spent shot shells.
  • Please do not clean birds in the parking areas.
  • Hunters may not enter closed areas to retrieve birds. Be sure to allow enough room between the closed area boundary and where you are hunting to retrieve your birds.
  • Persons possessing, transporting, or carrying firearms on National Wildlife Refuge System lands must comply with all provisions of State and local law. Persons may only use (discharge) firearms in accordance with refuge regulations (50 CFR 27.42 and specific refuge regulations in 50 CFR Part 32).
Special Shot Restrictions
  • Non-toxic shot is required for both waterfowl and upland bird hunting.
  • Possession of lead shot while in the field on the Refuge is prohibited.
  • Non-motorized boats are permitted. Montana State laws requiring registration and safety equipment apply.
  • Temporary portable blinds or blinds made of natural vegetation may be used.
  • Blinds may not be built on the Refuge prior to the opening day of hunting season.
  • All blinds are available on a first-come, first-served basis, regardless of who set up the blind.