Friday, July 19, 2013

Charles M Russell NWR Montana

July 18, 2013 Thur
I arrived at the entrance to the auto tour at the West end of the 1.1 million acre Charles M Russell National Wildlife Refuge at about 6:00 AM.
The auto tour is a 20 mile gravel/dirt road that covers the environment, geology, and wildlife at several elevations in the refuge. Of course with a refuge this large (second largest in the lower 48 states) a 20 mile road only covers a small portion of the refuge. While the refuge boasts several species of mammals and birds I didn’t find all that much going on. Maybe it was in part due to the thunder storm we had the night before. In fact I reached a section of the road at the bottom of a large, steep dirt wall that was covered with water and mud and I wasn’t sure if I should continue. About that time a man driving a road grading machine came along. So far he was the only other human I had seen. I inquired as to the depth of water on the road. He looked at me and my truck and told me to just put it in four-wheel-drive and I should make it through OK and that this was the worst section of storm damage. He said he would watch till I got to the other side of the flooded area. So there I went creating quite a wake as I plowed through the water and mud. When I emerged on the other side my truck had so much mud and small rocks stuck to the wheel wells I’m surprised the wheels would even turn, but there I was, safe and sound. I waved to the driver and off I went. I had read that there was only one bathroom on the auto tour and after the 24 ounces of coffee I had on the way to the refuge I was hoping to find it sooner than later. A few miles down the road I came on an area that allowed overnight camping. It was flooded and no one was around, but there was the outhouse. OK - it was wade through several inches of water or – well as far as I was concerned there was no or. I wasn’t about to take my shoes off. I had no idea what might be under that very murky water. I parked the truck as close to the privy as possible and stepped out. The water covered the top of my shoes until I reached the concrete landing. At that point it was only about an inch deep. I opened the door and found a remarkably clean and barely damp pit toilet. It was quite typical of Federal recreation area toilets. So I did my business and waded back to the truck. I spent the next several hours with wet feet. Luckily it was a very warm day.
This area is known for its elk population, but I found no elk. It is also known for its Sage and Sharp-tailed Grouse. I found no Grouse. I did find some very lovely scenery and a few birds.

Missouri River running through the Charles M Russell NWR
Eastern Kingbird with Grasshopper 
Spotted Towhee
Cedar Waxwing
Common Nighthawk catching a bug in flight
Common Nighthawk

A rancher after a hard days work

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