Swan River National Wildlife Refuge

About Us

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.

Our Mission

Swan River National Wildlife Refuge Vision

Diverse and abundant wildlife flourishes within a mosaic of grass, trees, and wetlands - recalling an earlier era when the Grand River meandered across its broad, open floodplain. Visitors enjoy recreation dependent on wildlife and show their appreciation by supporting conservation and Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Our History

The Swan River  National Wildlife  Refuge (NWR),  is located in northwest Montana, 38 miles southeast of the town of Creston, in the serene and picturesque Swan Valley  Mountain  Range.  The Refuge was  established  in  1973at the request of Montana  Senator  Lee Metcalf, who often hunted the  area  and desired to see it preserved.  The refuge was  established under the  authority  of the  Migratory Bird  Conservation Act.  It consists of  1,568 acres, with an additional  210-acre  Forest Service in-holding that  is managed under a Memorandum of Understanding.  The refuge  boundary lies within the flood plain of the Swan River above Swan Lake and between the Swan Mountain  Range to the east and the Mission Mountain Range to the west.  The valley was formed when glacial water poured down the steep slopes of the Mission Range into Flathead  Lake.  The valley  floor  is generally flat, but rises steeply  to  adjacent forested mountain sides.  Approximately  80 percent of the refuge  lies within  this valley flood plain, which  is composed mainly of reed canary grass.  Deciduous and coniferous forests comprise the remaining  20 percent.  Swan  River,  which once meandered  through the flood plain, has been forced to the west side of therefuge by past earthquakes and deposits of silt.  The  result of these geologic events  is a series of oxbow sloughs within the  refuge flood plain.

Other Facilities in this Complex

About the Western Montana National Wildlife Refuge Complex

Swan River National Wildlife Refuge is managed by the Northwest Montana Wetland Management District as part of the Western Montana National Wildlife Refuge Complex. 

A Complex is an administrative grouping of two or more refuges, wildlife management areas, or other refuge conservation areas that are managed from a central location. Refuges are grouped into complexes because they occur in a similar ecological region, such as a watershed or specific habitat type, and have a related purpose and management needs. 

For the Western Montana National Wildlife Refuge Complex, the project leader is stationed at Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge and oversees general management of the Complex. Refuge managers oversee the operations at specific refuges. Supporting staff, composed of administrative, law enforcement, refuge manager, biological, fire, visitor services, and maintenance professionals support all refuges within the complex

The District headquarters address is PO Box 547, Ronan, MT, 59864.

The Complex headquarters is located at Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge, 922 Bootlegger Trail, Great Falls MT 59404.

The refuges in the Western Montana National Wildlife Refuge Complex include: