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Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Contact Info
Fish and Wildlife Service
922 Bootlegger Trail
Great Falls, MT 59404



Covering 12,383 acres (19 square miles), Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is located on the western edge of the northern Great Plains, 50 miles east of the Rocky Mountains and 12 miles north of Great Falls, Montana. Despite its name, Benton Lake is actually a 5,000-acre shallow wetland created by the last continental glacier thousands of years ago. During Montana's early years, the government excluded the Benton Lake basin from homesteading so that it could be used for irrigation. Later, several businessmen attempted to drain the wetlands so they could be farmed. Both plans proved ineffective. As the surrounding land was settled, local sportsmen pushed for the establishment of a refuge to keep the area in public ownership. By Executive Order of President Herbert Hoover in 1929, Benton Lake NWR was set aside as a refuge and breeding ground for birds. However, the Refuge remained dry more often than not until 1957, when members of the Cascade County Wildlife Association secured Congressional funding to transform the marsh into a more consistently wet environment. Over the next 4 years, a pump house and pipeline were built to bring water to the Refuge from Muddy Creek, 15 miles to the west. Dikes were built to divide the wetland into manageable units, and Refuge roads and facilities were constructed.

Map + Directions

Basic Directions

To get to the Refuge, follow Highway 87 (Havre Highway) north out of Great Falls for about a mile and turn left onto Bootlegger Trail. Go about 9 miles to the well-marked Refuge entrance on the left.

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