Black Coulee NWR is a 1,494-acre refuge located north of Dodson in northeastern Blaine County, Montana. A portion of the refuge was purchased with migratory bird funds, and technically is a Waterfowl Production Area. This unstaffed station contains one large retention reservoir with a newly replaced water control structure and reconstructed concrete/rubble spillway. A portion of the refuge is under easement only.
The western portion of the unit is managed strictly as a NWR and is mostly low-quality native range. The unit can receive large amounts of snowmelt in some years, but also has been dry during periods of drought. Black Coulee Reservoir has received considerable siltation from adjacent agricultural lands, which has reduced water capacity and the ability to carry water over for a number of years.
The refuge is managed primarily as a resting and nesting place for migratory birds. The area also has resident wildlife such as pronghorns and raptors. Some riparian wildlife species can be found around the reservoir.
Recreational opportunities include boating and hunting.
A county road south of Turner, Montana, crosses the center of the refuge. Access on this gravel road can be dangerous during inclement weather.
All gates are locked to eliminate trespass grazing and unauthorized entry, but visitors can walk to the reservoir along a two-track trail.
Waterfowl and upland game bird hunting is allowed on that portion east of the road, primarily by walk-in access. In high water years it is possible to drag or carry a small boat to the water during waterfowl hunting season.
This unstaffed refuge is rather remote and access can be difficult at times of the year. Black Coulee Reservoir has a water control structure for releasing water, but water management relies more often on excess water from spring runoff flushing the system through the spillway.
Fences are maintained to exclude grazing. No other upland management occurs. Resource values are maintained by natural processes. The refuge is monitored to ensure that these values have not been compromised.
The most reliable access is from the state highway south of Turner, Montana. Visitors should take the blacktop road six and a half miles south from Turner, and then turn left on to a gravel road traveling south for another three and a half miles and then southeast for a mile and a half. Signs help direct visitors to the refuge.
National Wildlife Refuge
c/o Bowdoin NWR
HC 65 Box 5700
Malta, MT 59538
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
Black Coulee National Wildlife Refuge Travel Q&A
What's your favorite hike? Where's the best campsite? Join the conversation! Ask Your Question