10 October 2011

Ninepipes National Wildlife Refuge

In the middle of September I had the chance to attend the Crown of the Continent Roundtable in Polson, and on my drive back to Missoula I thought I would take the opportunity to stop at the Ninepipes National Wildlife Refuge, just south of Ronan. I had driven past Ninepipes many times, but I always had somewhere to be, so it just never happened.  
Ninepipes was created in 1921 as a refuge for native birds.. The refuge is located within the Flathead Reservation, but is maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife department. According to the Fish and wildlife website, Ninepipes is home to avian species such as red-necked grebes, song sparrows, yellow headed and red winged blackbirds, ring necked pheasants, American bitterns, sora rails, osprey, great blue herons and double crested cormorants. Non-avian species such as muskrat, striped skunk, mink, badgers, field mice, meadow voles, porcupines, and the occasional grizzly bear call Ninepipes home.
There are no developed areas of the refuge, so on my visit I drove down a small an unassuming dirt road, just off of highway 93, to a dead end, parked my car, and found a walkway lined with informative signs. The path, while paved, showed signs of deterioration and plants were eager to root themselves in the cement cracks. The wide expanse of the refuge was beautiful, especially with the Mission Mountains looming to the east. Grasses swayed in the wind, duck calls rang across the water, and I was greeted with a slight fall sprinkling of rain. Despite being less than a mile from highway 93, civilization felt a world away. Since this stop was on a whim, I lacked binoculars and a bird book. I do recall seeing a few Mallard ducks and even a heron off in the distance, but there were many birds  than I can identify. 

If you find yourself on highway 93 with a few minutes to spare, I highly recommend stopping and enjoying the scenery yourself!

1 comment:

  1. Love Ninepipes. I grew up in Ronan and visited Ninepipes very often. I always try to visit the refuge when I am in the valley. It is magical. Your photos are lovely. It is beautiful in all kinds of weather and certainly was the day you drove through it. Thanks for sharing,