View wildlife at the National Bison Range in Moiese

Story & photography by Greg Lindstom
Deer graze along Mission Creek as dawn breaks and the sun begins to creep over the towering Mission Mountains. Further along Prairie Drive, a hawk circles high above a herd of bison grazing on a ridge. Daybreak at the National Bison Range offers an excellent opportunity to view wildlife in a secluded setting, even in the harsh winter months.

American Plains Indians relied on bison to provide food, clothing, tools and weapons, and at their peak in the early-1800s there were an estimated 30 million to 60 million of the animals roaming North America. Due to overhunting and competition for forage from horses and cattle, by the early 1900s, there were fewer than 100 bison known to exist in the wild. President Theodore Roosevelt established the National Bison Range in 1908 for the conservation of the iconic animal. Today, the herd’s population ranges from 350-500.

The Bison Range is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the winter season. The 10-mile round-trip route along Prairie Drive follows Mission Creek and the Alexander Basin. Whitetail deer frequent the creek bottoms, and pronghorn antelope and bison can be found further along Alexander Basin and Antelope Ridge. Owls, eagles and other birds of prey are often seen in the area as well.

Getting there From Kalispell, take U.S. Highway 93 south of Polson for 18 miles to Montana Highway 212. Travel west past Charlo for 12 miles to the range entrance.