benton lake national wildlife refuge birding trails


From Great Falls, north one mile on US 87, then Bootlegger Trail nine miles to large sign.

General Information

Not to be confused with Fort Benton, a town 40 miles away, this 12,383-acre prairie and marsh refuge is designated a Globally Important Bird Area and a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site. Though much of the area is closed, excellent bird watching features many species of limited range, some best found here. Hunting in fall. Winter access often limited by snow. No fee.


Prairie marsh, grasslands, shelterbelts

Highlighted Species

Eared grebe; Franklin’s gull; common, Forster’s and black terns; cinnamon teal; tundra swan (migrant early March); sora; Wilson’s phalarope; American avocet; black-necked stilt; marbled godwit; willet; eastern kingbird; yellow-headed blackbird; vesper, savannah, and clay-colored sparrows; common yellowthroat; American pipit (migrant); marsh wren; white-faced ibis, black-crowned night heron, sharp-tailed grouse, long-billed curlew, chestnut-collared longspur (especially near entrance), short-eared owl, perhaps burrowing owl, loggerhead shrike (direct scope along tops of shelterbelts).

Facilities and Services

Visitor center with flush toilets (week days, 7:30 am to 4:00 pm), portable toilets 24/7; self-guided auto tour, short hike on accessible boardwalk, wildlife list.


Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge
922 Bootlegger Trail
Great Falls, MT 59404