Created as an easement refuge in 1942, the Hailstone National Wildlife Refuge is one of six satellite refuges in the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
Most of the refuge is marshland; though the ecosystem is naturally occurring, the marshes grew as a result of damming Hailstone Lake in the 1930s, though these alterations were later undone when the salinity of the water increased drastically.
Nonetheless, the refuge remains just north of the lake to provide a habitat for migrating birds and waterfowl. Its marshes are an important resource in the continuing preservation efforts in the Hailstone Basin for both wildlife and water quality.
Hailstone is an unstaffed refuge, meaning that while you are welcome to visit, you won’t find anything in the way of facilities for tourists.
While the overseeing body – the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge Complex – does have a visitor center, Hailstone, specifically, does not have a welcome center, interpretive displays, or recreational facilities.
Be sure to bring any supplies you might need, including water, for your visit.
Hailstone National Wildlife Refuge Stats
- Day Use Fees: Free
- Size: 2,700 acres
- Season: Year-Round
- Major Feature: Hailstone Lake
Main Attractions in Hailstone National Wildlife Refuge
Around the refuge lies several small charming communities, other wildlife refuges, and Hailstone Lake itself.
Though not within the borders of Hailstone National Wildlife Refuge, Hailstone Lake sits immediately to the south, and its waters create the marshes that make the refuge so valuable.
This is a natural reservoir that has collected in the lowest portions of the Hailstone basin, though it was, for a time, dammed to make it even larger.
Though these efforts have since been reversed, several species of nonnative grasses still proliferate near its shores that thrive on the increased salinity.
A family-owned diner in the nearby community of Rapelje, the Stockman Cafe is a true slice of Americana.
They serve classic meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all in a historic building decked out in several pieces of memorabilia from the region. You can find it on Main street in the small community of Rapelje.
A beloved bar and grill in the community of Broadview, the Homestead Inn is a classic watering hole with well-crafted food and a full bar.
Visitors come for the huge burgers, smothered burritos, and french fries made from scratch.
Grass Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Hailstone National Wildlife Refuge is bordered on three sides by Grass Lake National Wildlife Refuge, so it’s easy to see both in one trip.
Hailstone Lake actually sits inside of it and there are no hard borders between them, so it’s common for visitors to wander in inadvertently. Boats are not permitted on the lake.
Activities in Hailstone National Wildlife Refuge
As an unstaffed, sparse, and small refuge, visitors tend to come for very specific purposes. Most guests come to Hailstone, in some way, for the wildlife, be it for hunting or viewing.
Hunting is permitted within the refuge for big game, waterfowl, and upland game birds, though you must possess a Montana hunting license.
There are a few additional regulations that hunters must adhere to imposed by the refuge, like the prohibition of toxic shots and the requirement to remove any hunting blinds daily.
As in all of the satellite refuges, hiking is allowed anywhere within the Hailstone National Wildlife Refuge.
Though there are no designated trails, visitors are invited to explore the grounds in any way they see fit. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does ask, however, that guests limit their effects on the grounds, and take care not to irreparably damage any vital habitats.
As this is an unstaffed refuge, any garbage you create during your visit must be packed out with you.