Montana Wildernesses: Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge


The Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1963 to provide habitat for migratory birds and has since proven to be an attractive home for a diversity of wildlife.

In 1978, the name was changed to honor the conservation efforts of the late senator and Stevensville native Lee Metcalf. This small, riparian sanctuary is located along the east banks of the Bitterroot River, north of Stevensville.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has tabulated a list of 235 species of birds, 37 species of mammals, and 17 species of reptiles and amphibians that are found on the Refuge or could be found on the Refuge.

The diverse habitat of the Refuge includes the Bitterroot River; forested river bottoms, grasslands and fields, hedgerows and shrubs, marshes, open mudflats, and ponds. The varied habitat of this 2,800-acre shelter attracts a great variety of animals. Songbirds, raptors, waterfowl, and other waterbirds are common sights on the Refuge.

White-tailed deer, pheasants, and northern harriers are often seen in the upland fields. The ponds are home to muskrat, painted turtles, osprey, and bald eagles. Great-horned owls, pileated woodpeckers, and western terrestrial garter snakes can be found in the river bottom woodlands.

Wildlife-specific public use of the Refuge is promoted. Archery hunting for the abundant white-tailed deer population is allowed, and during the fall and winter months, waterfowl hunting is also a significant activity on designated ponds. Fishing is also permitted along the Bitterroot River and certain areas near the wildlife-viewing section.

Read Brian D’Ambrosio’s accompanying profile of Montana Senator Lee Metcalf.



Brian D’Ambrosio is the author of Montana Summer: 101 Great Adventures in Big Sky Country. It’s available now for $2.00 as an eBook on Smashwords.

Before you lace up those hiking boots, check out more posts about walks and hikes in and around Missoula or Hiking Glacial Lake Missoula’s High Water Mark, The Story of Missoula’s M, or visit the Make it Missoula hiking page.


Missoula writer Brian D'Ambrosio, his dog, and a beautiful view.

Brian D’Ambrosio is a Missoula writer, editor, instructor, and media consultant. D’Ambrosio’s recent articles have been published in local, regional, and national publications, including High Country News, USA Today, Wisconsin Trails, Bark Magazine, Montana Magazine, and Backpacker Magazine. His latest book about legendary vigilante screen actor Charles Bronson, Menacing Face Worth Millions, A Life of Charles Bronson, is available for purchase on Kindle.