Facility Rules and Policies

Many wildlife-oriented recreational opportunities are offered at Charles M. Russell Refuge, including hunting, fishing, photography, wildlife observation, and hiking.

This page outlines Refuge regulations and information that will help ensure your Refuge visit is safe and enjoyable. Observe the following regulations to protect yourself and Refuge resources. Activities not described here are prohibited on the Refuge.

General Travel Information
  • Travel on closed roads and off-road travel is prohibited.
  • Day use parking must be immediately adjacent to an open numbered road. 
  • Unless otherwise posted, seasonally closed roads are closed to all motorized travel from August 28–March 1, but remain open to bicycles year-round.
  • Paved roads are limited to U.S. Highway 191 on the western end of the Refuge and several highways around Fort Peck on the eastern end of the Refuge.
  • Graveled roads include 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 213, 321, and 531. Road 201 is only graveled to the Rock Creek Boat Ramp.
  • All other Refuge roads are primitive and passable only in dry weather. With any precipitation, conditions can change rapidly, and roads may be impassable. 
  • Cell phone coverage on the Refuge is sporadic. Drivers should be prepared for emergencies. Always carry shovels, tire chains, first aid kits, and emergency food and water.
  • Some access roads cross private lands, please respect private property.
  • For updated road conditions and seasonal road closures, visitors should check the Refuge website, contact the Refuge staff, or check locally before traveling off main highways.
Mechanized Vehicles
  • Travel on closed roads and off-road travel is prohibited. This includes shoreline travel and travel to retrieve game.
  • To limit erosion and to protect plants and wildlife, all mechanized vehicles (except snowmobiles), are permitted only on numbered Refuge roads that are designated as open.
  • In winter, snowmobiles and mechanized vehicles may access the ice of Fort Peck Reservoir below Soda Creek Bay using the most direct route from boat ramps. Otherwise, snowmobiles are prohibited on all refuge lands and roads.
  • Vehicles may be driven, using the most direct route, up to 100 yards from an open road to establish campsites, except in designated wilderness areas.

All-terrain Vehicles

  • ATVs include motorcycles, quadracycles, UTVs, etc.
  • To operate on open Refuge roads, ATV operators must possess a proper driver’s license and follow all mechanized vehicle regulations.
  • ATVs belonging to Montana residents must be street legal and must have a license plate, brake lights, and rear-view mirror.
  • ATVs belonging to non-residents must be legally licensed from the state of origin. If you can’t license an ATV in your state, contact any MT Fish Wildlife & Parks office to get a temporary permit or visit https://ols.fwp.mt.gov/.


Bicycles (including eBikes) are permitted year-round and only on numbered roads, including seasonally closed roads that are numbered.

  • Fishing is permitted on the Refuge. Anglers often catch catfish, walleye, northern pike, sauger, perch, smallmouth bass, bullhead, paddlefish, and lake trout from the Missouri River and Fort Peck Reservoir.
  • A Montana fishing license is required to fish on the Refuge. State fishing regulations and limits apply to the Refuge.
  • Boating is permitted on the Refuge.
  • Montana boating laws and regulations apply to all Refuge waters.
  • Boats and trailers must be properly licensed from the state of origin.
  • Extra shear pins, gasoline, and a first aid kit are highly recommended as standard equipment.
  • The Missouri River is designated as a unit of the National Wild and Scenic River System from the Refuge’s western boundary to the Fred Robinson Bridge (U.S. Highway 191). Special regulations apply to this segment of the river. General information regarding the wild and scenic portion of the river may be obtained from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Office in Lewistown, Montana (406-538-1900) or the Missouri Breaks Interpretive Center in Fort Benton, Montana (406-622-4000).
  • Water levels on the rest of the Missouri River, between the Fred Robinson Bridge and the Fort Peck Reservoir, fluctuate considerably and dictate what types of boats may be suitable for use. Low flows can make the use of boats with outboard motors dangerous. During periods of low flow, boaters should be cautious of sand bars and other hazards. Some boat ramps may not reach the water.
  • For current water levels and boat ramp information on Fort Peck Reservoir, contact the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Fort Peck, Montana at 406-526-3411. There are several marinas located around Fort Peck Lake: Crooked Creek 406-429-2999, Hell Creek 406-557-2345, Fort Peck 406-526-3442 and Rock Creek 406-485-2560.
  • 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. Title 18, U.S.C., Section 930 prohibits possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in Federal facilities.
  • Archery target shooting is allowed during archery season. All other target shooting is prohibited on the Refuge.
  • Hunting on the Refuge is subject to Federal and State regulations. A Montana hunting license is required.
  • Refuge specific hunting regulations are available on the Refuge website or at the Refuge headquarters and field stations by May 1 of each year.
  • All wildlife not specifically open to hunting on CMR is protected. This includes, but is not limited to, snakes, rabbits, prairie dogs, badgers, bobcats, moose, wolves and bears.
  • The use or possession of alcoholic beverages while hunting is prohibited.
  • Trapping is not allowed on the Refuge.
  • The use of artificial lights to attract, search for, or spot wildlife is prohibited.
  • Trail cameras are not allowed.
  • Youth hunts as described in the Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks Regulations are valid on the Refuge.

Big Game Hunting

  • Big game hunting seasons and harvest quotas on the Refuge may be more restrictive than State regulations. 
  • Portable tree stands and ground blinds are permitted. All stands and blinds must have the user's name, address, phone number, and automated licensing system (ALS) number visibly marked on the stand/blind. Tree stand identification must be visible from the ground. Ground blind identification must be visible from the outside of the blind.
  • Each hunter is limited to three portable tree stands and/or ground blinds in aggregate. Stands or blinds can be installed on August 1 and must be removed by December 15 of each year. The construction or use of any permanent tree stand, ladder or blind and the use of nails, wire, or screw-in spikes, is prohibited.

Mountain Lion Hunting

  • Mountain lion hunting is allowed in accordance with State seasons and limits.
  • Use of dogs to hunt mountain lion is prohibited.
  • Winter Season not valid on the Refuge.

Coyote Hunting

  • Coyote hunting is allowed from the first day of the antelope rifle season through March 1. Coyotes may be hunted only from 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset (no permit required).
  • Coyotes cannot be hunted with the aid of dogs, aircraft, or mechanized vehicles.

Waterfowl and Upland Bird Hunting

  • Waterfowl, upland game, turkey and webless migratory bird hunting is allowed in accordance with State seasons and limits.
  • Hunters must use and may possess only steel or other approved non-toxic shot in the field for all shotgun hunting.
  • The use of dogs for hunting waterfowl and upland game birds is permitted. Dogs must be under the control of their owner at all times and cannot be left unattended.
  • Any camping unit and/or party is limited to 14 days within any 30 day period. Any property including camping equipment, boats, trailers, and other personal property left unattended for a period in excess of 72 hours is subject to removal.
  • Select a safe place for campfires. Build only small fires, and make certain that your fire is completely out when you leave. Campfires must be attended at all times.
  • Check www.mtfireinfo.org for fire restrictions.
  • Collection and use of dead and downed wood for campfires is allowed. Cutting of standing timber, live or dead, is prohibited.
  • All human waste, including tissue paper, must be buried immediately.
  • Dumping of RV tanks (gray or black water) is prohibited.
  • Help keep the land and wildlife healthy. Pack out all trash, and restore your campsite to a natural condition when you leave.

Alcoholic Beverages

  • Possession and/or consumption of alcoholic beverages by persons under the age of 21 is prohibited. Buying, selling, providing, distributing, or allowing underage persons to possess or consume alcohol is prohibited.
  • Possession and or use of marijuana cannabis/THC on National Wildlife Refuge System lands is prohibited under Federal law.


Camping areas near the Refuge are available at James Kipp Recreation Area (managed by the Bureau of Land Management Fort Benton, MT, 877-256-3252), Crooked Creek, Devils Creek, Forchette Bay, The Pines, Nelson Creek, McGuire Creek, Rock Creek, Fort Peck Recreation Areas (all managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Peck, MT, 406-526-3411) and Hell Creek Recreation Area (managed by the Montana Little Shell Chippewa Tribe, 406-557-2362).

Dispersed Camping

  • Camping outside of a campground is allowed, unless the area is designated as closed.
  • Vehicles may be driven, using the most direct route, up to 100 yards from an open numbered road to establish campsites. Select the most direct route to avoid damage to soils and vegetation.

Backcountry Camping

Backpacking and horse camping are allowed, except in closed areas.

Hiking and Horseback Riding

  • Backcountry travel, whether by foot or on horseback, requires special preparations and precautions. Expertise with map, compass, or other navigation aids is recommended. Drinking water is generally not available. 
  • Back-country travelers should be familiar with the isolated character of the Refuge and should be prepared for emergencies and rapidly changing weather conditions.
  • Only certified noxious-weed-seed-free forage is allowed. Visit the Montana Department of Agriculture website  for a list of approved forage vendors.
  • All horses, mules, llamas, and other types of pack animals must be tied, hobbled, or confined while in camp. Pens are provided at some Army Corps of Engineers Recreation sites.
Collection of Natural Items and Artifacts
  • Collection of antlers and animal skulls is illegal. These items are an important source of renewable calcium for elk, deer, and other wildlife.
  • Picking or harvesting of any berries, mushrooms or plants (including edible) is prohibited.
  • Removing any natural items such as fossils, rocks, drift wood, petrified wood and black diamond willow is prohibited.
  • There are many interesting historic buildings on the Refuge. Please enjoy them as they are, and do not remove parts of the buildings or artifacts found within or around them.
Designated Wilderness Areas
  • The UL Bend Wilderness Area is part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Over 20,000 acres in size, this area has been set aside for non-motorized, non-mechanized travel and use. Hiking, horseback riding, photography, hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, and camping are among the permitted uses of the wilderness area wilderness area
    Wilderness areas are places untamed by humans. The Wilderness Act of 1964 allows Congress to designate wilderness areas for protection to ensure that America's pristine wild lands will not disappear. Wilderness areas can be part of national wildlife refuges, national parks, national forests or public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

    Learn more about wilderness area
  • Mechanical transport and motorized equipment are not allowed in designated Wilderness Areas, this includes bicycles and game carts.
  • The use of aircraft over Refuge lands to disturb, harass, drive, pursue, rally, or hunt wildlife or to locate wounded animals is strictly prohibited.
  • It is illegal to operate unmanned aircraft (drones) on or over refuge lands.
  • Aircraft may not land on Refuge lands. Landing of fixed-winged aircraft is only allowed on the surface of Fort Peck Reservoir in the Landing Area and in Landing Zones that are defined below.

Landing Area

The landing area of Fort Peck Reservoir is open to aircraft landing, takeoff, taxiing, and operations. The landing area encompasses all of Fort Peck Reservoir that is located east of the Bone Trail longitude line (107* 15’ 20”), north of Rock Creek latitude line (47* 42’ 26”), west of the entrance to Bear Creek Bay longitude line (106* 22’ 20”), and east of the entrance to Duck Creek Bay longitude line (106* 34’ 03”). See map for additional reference. Coordinates Datum: 1927 American Datum

Landing Zones

There are five designated landing zones within the no landing area of the reservoir. These areas are open to landing, takeoff, taxiing, and operations within a 0.5-mile radius centered around of the following points. See map for additional reference.

Landing Zone Points

Crooked Creek  47° 26’ 07” x 107° 55’ 10.6”

Devils Creek     47° 37’ 34” x 107° 39’ 25.6”

Fourchette Bay 47° 39’ 53” x 107° 39’ 38.6”

McGuire Creek  47° 38’ 02” x 106° 14’ 17.9”

Nelson Creek    47° 34’ 23” x 106° 13’ 44.9”

Datum: 1927 North American Datum