The National Bison Range
Grassy slopes with Mission Mountain backdrop at sunset
 


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The National Bison Range is a very pretty 18,000 acre area of meadows, hills and trees. It was created in 1908 in an effort to provide a safe haven for the bison. While the herd is relatively small and only includes three hundred to five hundred animals, they are easy to spot. The Bison Range is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and located 43 miles northwest of Missoula Montana. Follow 93 north and the signs for the refuge.



The Bison Range feels like an adventure to me, and many people consider it
a "mini-Yellowstone". It almost has a Jurassic Park kind of feel to it, basically being a self guided auto tour. You enter the property, then work uphill towards the visitor center where you register and pay. From here, a narrow one way road leads up a steep mountain. Immediately you can see bison. As you climb, you look down over slopes of grass, and can often see hawks soaring below you. The road climbs for quite awhile, past key bison habitat, then ultimately reaching a cool pine forest. The drive really shows off the diverse habitats of the range. The wildlife viewing is fantastic. You can see bison, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, mule deer, whitetail deer, bald eagles, a wide variety of raptors, coyotes, bear, owls and other creatures. This is easily one of the best places to see wildlife in the west. Remember that the road is gravel and there are no barriers preventing you from going over the side. Those afraid of heights may find this an unsuitable drive.


Bison at the Bison Range with horn scars.

Hours of operation:

Fall(September 8 to Mid October): Visitor center open from 8 am to 6 pm weekdays. Weekends the center is open from 9 am to 6 pm. Red Sleep Mountain Drive is open from 6 am to 6 pm, and your drive must finish by dark.
Winter(mid October to mid May): Visitor center open from 8 am to 4 pm weekdays. The Bison Range is closed weekends and holidays during the winter. Red Sleep Mountain Drive closed in winter. The Winter Drive is open 7 am to dark.
Spring( May 9 to May 22): Visitor center open from 8 am to 6 pm. Weekends and holidays 9 am to 6 pm. Red Sleep Mountain Drive open daily from 6:30 am to 6 pm, must finish by dark.
Summer(May 23 to September 7): Visitor center open from 8 am to 6 pm. Weekends and holidays 9 am to 6 pm. Red Sleep Mountain Drive open daily from 6:30 am to 7 pm, must finish by dark.

Remember that scenic roads can close ay anytime due to a variety of conditions. Fees for the Bison range are $5 per vehicle per day. Annual passes are $15.


At the top of the Bison Range looking upon the Mission Mountains

The Bison Range is not just about wildlife. The scenery is also outstanding. At the top of the drive, you can see the spectacular Mission mountains rising five thousand feet straight up from the valley floor. The Lolo National Forest and Flathead Indian Reservation stretch on forever when looking to the west. Mission Creek flows through the range. This river is incredibly clear and cool, with a deep aqua color. Bald eagles can be seen along certain stretches. There is no camping at the National Bison Range. This is the only page on this excellent location for both scenery and wildlife viewing. As always, low light hours are the most suitable for wildlife viewing. Think early morning to late morning, and late afternoon to evening. The Bison Range is truly one of the best wildlife locations in the U.S.

Contact: 406-644-2211

Image note: This is from the western portion of the Bison Range looking east to the spectacular Mission Mountains. These rolling, grassy hills teem with wildlife.

 

 

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