U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service logo A Unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System
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Bear Lake
National Wildlife Refuge

322 North 4th St.
Montpelier, ID   83254 - 1019
E-mail: jeremy_jirak@fws.gov
Phone Number: 208-847-1757
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
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  Wildlife Observation and Photography
Continued . . .

You may hike on all refuge roads that are open to vehicle travel. Hiking is permitted in all areas July 1-January 20 except in the areas that are closed to all entry. Those who choose to enjoy the refuge on cross-country skis or showshoes are welcome. Use areas and dates are the same as those for hiking.

Two accessible wildlife photography blinds are available for visitor use March 15-September 20. You may park at any road's edge in a manner that does not obstruct traffic or in designated parking areas. Staying in your car will often avoid disturbing wildlife and provide you with better viewing opportunities.

Boating is permitted only in areas shown as open to boating on the refuge brochure map. Motorized and nonmotorized boats may be used September 20-January 15. The Canoe Trail is open July 1-September 20. Air thrust boats are prohibited, and boating is not permitted in the fishing area.

Spring at Bear Lake comes late, with some ice still on the refuge marsh through late April. The early migrants such as Canada geese, mallards, and northern pintails arrive in early March. From mid-March to early April, spring migration peaks as the ice slowly recedes and open water begins to show in the ponds. Ducks including canvasbacks, redheads, and lesser scaup are abundant at this time. Sandhill cranes can easily be seen, usually in pairs preparing to nest. April and May see the arrival of thousands of Franklin's gulls and white-faced ibis. Large numbers of herons, egrets, bitterns, terns, and grebes establish nesting sites in the marsh. Shorebirds such as the American avocet and black-necked stilt are some of the last to arrive.

During June, the early duck broods of mallards and canvasbacks are already hatching out, quickly followed by redheads, ruddy ducks, cinnamon teal, shovelers, and gadwalls. As June progresses into July, marsh vegetation grows taller, making it harder to see the various bird species. White-faced ibis nest on the refuge in large numbers; watch for their numerous small feeding flocks flying low over the marsh to flooded fields around the valley. Sandhill cranes nest near marsh edges, and crane chicks can be seen if you look carefully. Black and Forster's terns, as well as Franklin's gulls, are frequently seen overhead feeding on insects and diving for small fish. Grebes (western, Clark's, pie-billed, and eared) are commonly seen on the canals and ponds. Double-crested cormorants, California gulls, and white pelicans are also frequently observed within the refuge marsh.

Fall comes early in the high-elevation Bear Lake Valley. September brings hundreds of sandhill cranes, which gather to feed in refuge grain fields. Young ducks learn to fly by late September. Waterfowl, mostly from Canada, pass through the valley on fall migration from mid-September through mid-November. Freeze-up of marshes is early, usually by mid-November. Most birds leave the valley after freeze-up to avoid the snowy winters--notable exceptions are rough-legged hawks and bald eagles, which winter in the area.

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