GLACIATED PLAINS (MT)
|U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service|
|Part of C.M. Russell N.W.R.||511,000||207,000|
The Glaciated Plains site stretches from the Milk River south to the Missouri River. As the name suggests, ancient glaciers levelled the land by both planing off hills and filled in the valleys. The resulting topography is quite level in comparison to landscapes farther south. The Missouri River flows through a canyon carved by the enormous flows that coursed through the region during glacial times, when the runoff from Canada flowed here.
The Fort Peck Dam on the Missouri River has created a reservoir extending over 130 miles west. The million acres around this reservoir comprises the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, the UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge, and the UL Bend Wilderness Area.
In the east, the landscape is mixed grassland on rolling coulees leading down to the reservoir. To the west, the land gets steeper and forested, grading into the rugged Missouri Breaks. For a more detailed look, a map of the national monument can be found at this non-government site.
This area includes extensive prairie dog habitat, two reintroduction sites for black-footed ferrets, and significant populations of mountain plover and sage grouse. This area covers 11 of the 22 focal species habitats. Important ecological communities include Coniferous, Riparian-cottonwood, and Big Sage.
Landscape - Spectacular cliffs along the free-flowing river. Click on Missouri Breaks to find commentary and excellent photos.
Vegetation - good native vegetation with few introduced species. Ponderosa Pine reaches the northeast limit of its range here.
Wildlife - Well known for big game, including cougar, elk and bighorn sheep. Audubon’s Bighorn sheep became extinct, but was replaced by Rocky Mountain Bighorns. These are doing quite well, and a limited hunting season is held. Popular for fishing, including some introduced species. Several bird species, including white-throated swift, mountain plover and pinon jay, are at the northern edge of their range here.
Road access - Good roads follow the perimeter, with one highway and one gravel road crossing through the area.
A national scenic byway, suitable for cars in dry weather, goes on the south side of the Missouri from Winifred east to James Kipp State Park.
Hiking - Hiking is allowed throughout. Few, if any, formal trails, although the minor vehicle tracks would be pleasant to hike on.
Cycling - No facilities for cycling at this time. Good potential for intermediate mountain biking trails, using the existing dirt road network.
Horseback riding - Allowed throughout the area, but no facilities or rentals available.
Canoeing - Excellent and popular canoeing on the Missouri River between Fort Benton and the Hwy 191 crossing. Registered as a National Wild and Scenic River.
Species of biological concern include mountain plover, piping plover, sage grouse, black-footed ferret, sweift fox and black-tailed prairie dog. Focal speces include ferruginous hawk, chestnut-collared longspur and lark bunting.
Camping - About a dozen campsites available around the reservoir. A potential backpacking route connects the five primitive campsites along the east end of the reservoir.
Native Americans - The nearby Fort Belknap Indian Reservation (telephone 406 353-2205, ext. 470) gives guided tours of their land. The traditional history of the landscape and some medicinal plants is explained. Other highlights include a bison herd grazing on a prairie dog town where black-footed ferrets have been re-introduced.
Lewis and Clark followed the Missouri River through here.
The Nez Perce National Historic Trail crosses this area.
A museum in the towers near the dam houses many fossils, including tyrannosaurus, from the Fort Peck area. Another gallery explains the unique construction methods used to build the dam.
Modern culture - The land is leased for grazing. Services are confined to Highway 2, so ensure you have a full gas tank and sufficient water.
Some conservation organizations have initiated a “grass banking” program, where nearby ranchers can use some of the group’s rangeland in exchange for implementing conservation activities on their own land.
Lead agency - US Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management
Other supportive land managers
The national monument must be integrated into the BLM organizational structure, and its management adjusted to reflect its new designation.
The Corps of Engineers is seeking ways to manage their dams to allow a more natural functioning of the river.
Current recreational management stresses fishing and boating. Land-based recreation has not received much attention, with the exception of big game hunting.