General Trip Planning Information
The refuge headquarters is located on North Shore Road, which is the first road north of the main lake. The town of Medicine Lake is located near the northwest boundary of the refuge. The towns of Plentywood and Culbertson are about 20 miles equidistant north and south, respectively, along Montana State Highway 16.
The wildlife drive begins on North Shore Road, then heads north of the refuge headquarters. The drive follows the north shore of Medicine Lake heading east from Highway 16 to East Lake Highway. The drive traverses 14 miles of wetland and grassland habitat. As you travel east, you will pass by lakes and ponds that support many different species of wildlife. Visitors can continue along a 1.2 mile trail leading to Pelican Overlook, where an elevated platform with fixed binoculars provides a view of a breeding colony of pelicans, cormorants, and herons on Bridgerman Point and Big Island.
Stop by one of several kiosks located throughout the refuge or at the refuge headquarters for more information.
Foot and canoe/kayak travel in wilderness areas is restricted during certain times of year to protect migrating and breeding birds. The refuge is open from sunrise to sunset. Camping is not allowed.
Hunting is allowed on designated areas of Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). The most common game species hunted are ducks, geese, ring-necked pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse, and white-tailed deer. The hunting of swans and sandhill cranes is prohibited on Medicine Lake NWR. Hunting is permitted in accordance with State seasons and bag limits.
Fishing is allowed at certain times in accordance with state regulations. Refuge specific regulations are included in the state fishing regulations. No motors or power augers are allowed in the wilderness area.
Climate and Special Equipment Needs
The climate of this area is typical of the Northern Great Plans. Weather is extreme and variable with periodic drought, severe blizzards, great fluctuations in temperature, and frequent strong winds. With few natural land barriers the wind moves freely across the Plains. Wind chill values can exceed 40 degrees below zero during the winter. Average snowfall is 27 inches. Temperatures can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months. Annual precipitation averages 13 inches, with the majority of moisture occurring during the spring and summer. Evapotranspiration losses average 50 inches per year.
Safety and Current Conditions
The condition of the gravel roads throughout the refuge is usually good, but we may issue temporary closures if rain or snow cause the roads to become hazardous. During the hunting season (Sept 30 - Jan 1), a portion of the Wildlife Drive is closed to travel to protect migratory birds. During this time you may still access the east section of the wildlife drive via East Lake Highway and Lakeside Road.