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National Wildlife Refuge

Flocks of Canada geese and tundra swans stand on lake ice at Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge.
194 Bowdoin Auto Tour Road
Malta, MT   59538
E-mail: bowdoin@fws.gov
Phone Number: 406-654-2863
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
Many people visit Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge each year to view and photograph the 263 species of birds, herds of pronghorn, and the native prairie landscape.
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Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge

f Malta in the Milk River Valley of north-central Montana. Established in 1936 to provide habitat for migrating, nesting, and feeding birds, the Refuge is home to more than 260 species of birds, 26 species of mammals, and a variety of reptiles, amphibians, and fish. Many of these wildlife species can be seen from the Refuges 15-mile auto tour loop.

Bowdoin NWR encompasses 15,551 acres, including more than 6,600 acres of wetlands. Refuge staff also manage Lake Thibadeau, Black Coulee, Creedman Coulee, and Hewitt Lake NWRs. In addition, Refuge staff administer Bowdoin Wetland Management District, which consists of seven waterfowl production areas and a variety of grassland and wetland easements across three counties.

Getting There . . .
Bowdoin NWR is located about 7 miles east of Malta, Montana. From U.S. Highway 2 on the east edge of Malta, turn southeast onto old County Highway 2 at the brown and white Refuge sign. Follow the paved road to the two stone pillars marking the entrance road to the Refuge headquarters.

Get Google map and directions to this refuge/WMD from a specified address:

Your full starting address AND town and state OR zip code

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These driving directions are provided as a general guide only. No representation is made or warranty given as to their content, road conditions or route usability or expeditiousness. User assumes all risk of use.

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Wildlife and Habitat

Major habitat types on Bowdoin NWR include saline and freshwater wetlands, native prairie (shortgrass and mixed-grass), planted dense nesting cover, and shrublands.

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Bowdoin NWR, which was named after a railroad siding town, was established in 1936 as an overlay on Bureau of Reclamation lands.

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Management Activities
Prior to establishment of the Refuge in 1936, water levels of Lake Bowdoin dropped dramatically each summer; the low water levels greatly reduced waterfowl populations in the area. Also, diseases such as avian botulism wiped out many birds. Today, a system of canals and dikes allows Refuge managers to store and move water as needed on the Refuge to maintain quality habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife. Rain, snowmelt, and occasional flooding from Beaver Creek add water to the system, but the main source of water for the Refuge is the Milk River Irrigation System.

Historically, wildfire and massive migrating herds of bison controlled the amount of vegetation and maintained the health of the prairie uplands in this region. Since wild herds of bison no longer inhabit the area and wildfire regimes have changed, Refuge managers must now use other means to keep prairie habitat in good condition. Grazing, mowing, haying, and prescribed burns are all used at Bowdoin NWR today to rejuvenate the prairies.