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Experience wonder of winter at bison range

MOEISE — Winter weather will soon do its best to keep us indoors where it is cozy and warm. But after the heat of the summer, the cold can invigorate and inspire us. Nothing beats fresh air, beautiful scenery, and great wildlife viewing to get everyone out of doors. Wildlife typically are more active during the short winter days. So get out of the house and visit your favorite national wildlife refuge, such as the National Bison Range.   

The range is open daily from 7 a.m. to dark, which can come as early at 5 p.m. during the middle of winter. Scenic drives are located in the flats and are open daily, weather and road conditions permitting, of course. The Winter Drive provides a 10-mile round trip along a gravel road. This route offers wildlife viewing opportunities for bison, white-tail deer, elk, pronghorn antelope and bald eagle along Mission Creek and in Alexander Basin. There are spectacular views of the Mission Mountains from the basin. Visitors may also take the shorter West Loop Drive and look for deer, pronghorn or other wildlife. We suggest people give themselves about an hour to do the drives so they can go slowly enough to enjoy the wildlife and scenery. As the season advances, roads may become snowy and/or icy, so use caution when driving. No fees are charged during the winter season. 

Another good spot for viewing bison and occasionally elk is along Highway 93 north of Ravalli on the south side of the range. Or check out the southwest side along Highway 200 and look for bighorn sheep among the cliffs and rocks. If the weather cooperates, try walking the nature trail located in the day use area. This short, one-mile, accessible trail is a good place to see winter birds, such as black–capped chickadees, northern flickers, Townsend’s solitaires and an occasional owl. 

Starting Thanksgiving week (Nov. 19), the visitor center will be open at irregular hours throughout the week and closed weekends and holidays. When open, stop in to view the displays and watch the 15-minute video. And the Christmas book sale will be held the entire month of December. Holiday closures of the visitor center include Thanksgiving (Thursday and Friday, Nov. 22 and 23), the Christmas holiday (Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 24 and 25) and New Year’s holiday (Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1). Please call (406) 644-2211 for current information about road conditions and, in particular, visitor center hours. 

So, bundle up and head outdoors. Enjoy the winter season, snow and cold and all. Bring your friends and family to the National Bison Range and share some wintertime with us. 

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