The Swan River National Wildlife Refuge is located in northwest Montana, 32 miles southeast of the town of Creston, in the serene and picturesque Swan Valley Mountain Range. The refuge boundary lies within the flood plain of the Swan River above Swan Lake and between the Swan Mountain Range to the east and the Mission Mountain Range to the west.
The valley was formed when glacial ice poured down the steep slopes of the Mission Range The valley floor is generally flat, but rises steeply to adjacent forested mountain sides. Most of the refuge lies within this valley floodplain, which is composed mainly of reed canary grass. The land was acquired in 1973 and it has 1,568 acres, plus 210 acres from the Forest Service.
Objectives of the refuge are to provide for waterfowl habitat and production and to provide for other migratory bird habitat, where there are 170 species of different birds! Waterfowl species consist of Canada geese, mallards, cinnamon teal and common goldeneye. The refuge provides a nesting site for a pair of bald eagles. Other birds of prey frequenting the area include northern harriers, Swainsons hawks, red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, marsh wrens, song sparrows and yellow-headed blackbirds.
White-tailed deer are the most common large mammal seen. There's also elk, moose, beaver, bobcat, black bear, coyotes, beaver, muskrat and raccoons. The Swan and Mission Mountain Ranges have been designated as a habitat corridor of the threatened grizzly bear, and bears sometimes move onto the refuge during the early spring to forage. Fish include bull trout, northern pike, kokanee salmon, largemouth bass, cutthroat trout, brook trout and mountain whitefish.
There are no significant developments or facilities on the refuge and present management is directed at maintaining the area in its natural state. Except for viewing platforms, the refuge is closed from March 1 to July 15 to reduce disturbance to nesting birds.
Portions of the refuge are open to waterfowl hunting, with the majority being located north of Bog Road and along portions of Swan River. Big game and upland game bird hunting is prohibited and trapping is prohibited. Fishing is not allowed on Spring Creek from March 1 through July 15; fishing is allowed on those portions of Swan River which flow through the refuge.
Swan Lake, MT 59911