Facility Rules and Policies
Many wildlife-oriented recreational opportunities are offered at Charles M. Russell Refuge, including hunting, fishing, photography, wildlife observation, and hiking.
To protect refuge resources, reduce competing uses, and safeguard visitors, this site outlines refuge regulations and information. The visitor information that follows will help insure that your refuge visit is safe and enjoyable. Observe all the following regulations to protect yourself and refuge resources.
- 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 to March 1, but remain open to bicycles year round.
- Hard-surfaced, all-weather 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 passable only in dry weather. When wet, these roads become extremely slick and travel can be impossible.
- Drivers should be prepared for emergencies and changing conditions. Always carry shovels, tire chains, first aid kits, and emergency food and water.
- Some access roads cross private lands. Please exercise courtesy and respect private property.
- For updated road conditions and seasonal road closures, visitors should contact the Refuge staff, check the Refuge website, or check locally before traveling off main highways.
- 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 (with the exception of snowmobiles), are only permitted on numbered Refuge roads that are designated as open.
- Snowmobiles are prohibited on all refuge lands and roads.
- Travel on closed roads is illegal.
- In winter conditions, snowmobiles and mechanized vehicles are allowed on the frozen ice of Fort Peck Reservoir below Soda Creek Bay.
- Vehicles may be driven, using the most direct route, up to 100 yards from an open road to establish and utilize temporary overnight campsites, except in designated wilderness areas.
- ATVs include motorcycles, quadracycles, UTVs, etc.
- In order to operate on open Refuge roads, ATV operators must follow all mechanized vehicle regulations above, as well as the following regulations:
Montana resident ATV owners
- ATVs belonging to Montana residents must be street legal and must have a license plate, brake lights, and rear-view mirror.
- Operators must possess a proper driver’s license.
Non-resident ATV owners
- ATVs must be legally licensed from the state of origin. (If you can’t license an ATV in your state, contact MT Fish Wildlife & Parks to get a temporary permit.)
- Operators must possess a proper driver’s license.
Bicycling is permitted year-round, but it is allowed only on numbered roads.
- 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. 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 (Highway 191) 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 also be cautious of sand bars and other hazards when boating in the river and the reservoir. Some boat ramps may not reach the water during low water periods.
- 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).
- 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).
- Firearms may ONLY be fired on the Refuge in conjunction with a legal hunt for which the hunter is licensed.
- 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. Consult all current Federal and State regulations prior to hunting on the Refuge. 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.
- Hunting on the Refuge is permitted for mule deer, white-tailed deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, elk, mountain lion, coyotes, waterfowl, and upland game birds.
- All other wildlife 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 on the refuge.
- 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. Check Refuge regulations, available on the Refuge web site or at the Refuge headquarters and field stations by May 1 of each year, for specific information.
- 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 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 at any time.
- 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.
- Please check at any Refuge office or the Refuge web site for fire restrictions during dry periods.
- Collection and use of dead and downed wood for campfires is allowed on the Refuge. 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) on the Refuge is prohibited.
- Help keep the land and wildlife healthy. Pack out all trash, and restore your campsite to a natural condition when you leave.
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.
Developed 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 State Park/Recreation Area (managed by the State of Montana, 406/557 2362).
Camping outside of a developed campground is allowed, unless the area is designated as closed. Campers must follow the regulations below.
- Camping with a vehicle must take place within 100 yards of numbered roads that are designated as open.
- Direct access by mechanized vehicles from a numbered route is permitted to establish and utilize temporary overnight campsites within 100 yards of numbered roads designated as open. Select the most direct route to avoid damage to soils and vegetation.
Backpacking and horse camping are allowed on the Refuge, except in closed areas. For more information, contact a Refuge office.
Hiking and Horseback Riding
- Back-country travel, whether by foot or on horseback, requires special preparations and precautions. Drinking water is generally unavailable.
- Back-country travelers should be familiar with the isolated character of the Refuge and should be prepared for emergencies. Weather conditions can change rapidly – be prepared. Expertise with map and compass is recommended.
- Only certified noxious-weed-seed-free forage is allowed, preventing the spread of noxious weeds. Contact a Montana State University county extension office 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 antlers and animal skulls is illegal. These items are an important source of renewable calcium for elk, deer, and other wildlife.
- The picking or harvesting of any berries, mushrooms or plants (including edible) is prohibited.
- Removing any natural items such as fossils, rocks, dried 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.
- 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 .
- 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.
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
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