Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge

The Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge is a large reserve for animals and their habitat in the northeast of Montana. It covers an area of 20,000 acres and provides safety to over 150 species of mammals, birds, and plants.

It is home to the Ninepipe Reservoir which was created as part of an irrigation project in the mid-20th century.

The refuge also offers plenty of opportunities for visitors to get up close and personal with wildlife. There are different areas where people can explore all sorts of nature trails, picnic areas, and wildlife observation points. You can also go fishing in the Ninepipes Reservoir.

It is located within the boundary of the Flathead Indian Reservation and was created jointly with the U.S. Government and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

Because of its unique designation, there are certain rules and regulations that visitors to the park must follow that may not be common in other wildlife refuges.

In addition, the refuge may be occasionally subject to closures following periods of heavy use. Be sure to check in advance of your visit that both the reservation and the refuge are currently accepting tourists.

The refuge is just a single part of the larger Ninepipe Recreation Lands. If you want to check out the other recreational and protected areas in the region, you can check out the map on the FWS site.

Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge Stats

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  • Size:4,027 acres
  • Season: Year-Round
  • Home to Ninepipe Reservoir
  • Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Main Attractions in Ninepipe NWR

main attraction

The refuge is in a heavily touristed part of Western Montana, be it for the region’s natural bounty or commercial delights. After you’re done exploring the grounds, be sure to check out some of the attractions in the surrounding area as well.

Ninepipe Reservoir

The Ninepipe Reservoir was created by the United States Bureau of Reclamation in 1957 for irrigation and power generation purposes. Today it serves as a habitat for several land mammals, birds, and a variety of fish that draw anglers from around the region.

Though boating of any kind is prohibited on the reservoir – even in a non-motorized craft like a canoe or kayak – the Ninepipe Reservoir is a lovely place to go fishing or birdwatching.

Circumnavigating the reservoir on foot is a popular pastime for visitors as it is the dominant feature inside the refuge, and encircling it will allow you to see the majority of the lands held within.

Ninepipes Lodge

Ninepipes Lodge Montana is a lodge at the edge of the Ninepipes National Wildlife refuge. The resort offers fishing trips, hiking tours, wildlife viewing tours, horseback rides, bike rentals and so much more to keep you busy throughout your stay.

Ninepipes Lodge Montana is a great place to explore, but it also offers day trips to some of the most scenic places in America’s wilderness. Whether you’re looking for urban adventures or rustic tranquility, there are plenty of opportunities to experience the best the region has to offer right on the property.

Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana

The Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana is a privately funded museum. It is located on Interstate 93 just outside of the refuge. The museum has artifacts and displays that showcase the history, culture, and natural environment of this region from its earliest roots to the present day.

In 1990, a group of business leaders from Northeast Montana wanted to establish a cultural museum for people to learn about the history and culture of the area where they lived.

In 1992, their dream became a reality when they opened up their privately funded museum on the Ninepipes Ranch.

Recreation Activities in Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge

stormy weather ninepipe wild life

Because it lies within the Flathead Indian Reservation, the Ninepipe NWR has additional rules for recreation within its borders. Although there are several reservoirs nearby that allow small crafts, boating of any kind is prohibited on Ninepipe. But there are many activities that visitors can enjoy in the refuge nonetheless.


If you’re interested in birdwatching then you will definitely find plenty of opportunities on the refuge. Though a pair of binoculars can help considerably, visitors without them won’t be disappointed as it’s also a habitat for swans, geese, and herons which are easy to spot and enjoy with the unaided eye.


The Ninepipe Reservoir is home to prolific populations of yellow perch and largemouth bass which draws thousands of anglers every year. Because boating on the reservoir is not permitted, the only types of fishing permitted are shoreline and wading.

Because these lands are a part of the Flathead Reservation and were designated a wildlife reserve at the behest of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes, you will need a reservation license in addition to your Montana fishing license.

Wildlife Viewing

Songbirds, herons, waterfowl, and migratory birds can all be found on the refuge. Although a pair of binoculars can definitely help you get a better view, there’s plenty to see on the refuge even to the unaided eye.

For a complete list of birds spotted there, you can check out the Forest Service’s comprehensive compilation.

While the vast majority of visitors come for the variety of species of birds, there are also a handful of white-tail deer and coyotes that call the Ninepipe Refuge home.

If you’re lucky, you may even spot a grizzly bear that has wandered in from the misty mountains.