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  Comments (2) Total Friday Apr. 18, 2014
PLACES: Swan River National Wildlife Refuge
Swan Valley
The Swan River National Wildlife Refuge stretches toward Swan Lake from the boardwalk overlook. - Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon
A break in the trees along MT Highway 83 offers a brief view of the Swan River National Wildlife Refuge, but only by taking the short drive down a one-lane dirt road can visitors experience the grandeur of wild Montana.

The 1,568-acre floodplain of the Swan River was acquired in 1973 under the authority of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act. Located between the Swan Mountain Range to the east and the Mission Mountain Range to the west, even with the fires burning in the Flathead National Forest the views from the wooden observation platform are breathtaking.

For more adventure, take a walk along the aptly named Bog Road. The road, which traverses the refuge east to west, is not maintained and can be wet and muddy, so rubber boots are recommended. The extremely high growth can obscure sight this time of year so tread carefully. It is the only access to the interior portion of the refuge and is open for wildlife observation and photography.

Common waterfowl found in the refuge include Canada geese, mallards, cinnamon teal and common goldeneye. The refuge provides a nesting site for a pair of bald eagles and habitat for a variety of hawks, owls, wrens, sparrows and blackbirds.

Whitetail deer are the most common large animals but elk, moose, beaver, bobcat and black bear are known to inhabit the area. Also keep an eye out for coyotes, muskrat and raccoons.

How to get there: From downtown Kalispell, travel south on U.S. Highway 93. Turn east on MT Highway 82 toward Bigfork. Turn south on MT Highway 35 for 0.3 miles, then turn east at the next intersection, MT Highway 83. The refuge is on the west side of the highway just south of Swan Lake.
On 08-30-11, Ben Long commented....
A great way to enjoy the Swan Lake NWR is by canoe. Put in at Porcupine Creek Bridge and float downstream. Paddle across Swan Lake to the Forest Service boat ramp. I’ve shuttled both by car and bicycle. Beware of wind on the lake and cars on the highway.
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