The Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, named for famed landscape painter Charles M. Russell, encompasses 915,814 acres stretched along 125 air miles tracking the Missouri River from Fort Peck Dam to the Fred Robinson Bridge on U.S. Route 191. The property encompasses 245,000-acre Fort Peck Reservoir, which is not legally part of the refuge.
Settlement, mineral exploration and grazing are prohibited on much of the refuge, though portions remain open to federal grazing allotments. Public hunting and fishing are allowed on the refuge; CLICK HERE for CMR hunting regulations. Management jurisdiction is divided among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, other federal agencies, and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. Some 41,000 acres within the refuge are privately owned. Large portions of the Russell NWR and the adjacent UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge are legally designated wilderness areas, and another 155,000 acres within the refuge are managed as wilderness study areas. The refuge also contains a portion of the Missouri Breaks National Back Country Byway, and its western boundary borders the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument.
The Russell NWR, the second-largest NWR in the nation, hosts a quarter-million visitors annually, making it the country's most-visited NWR.
Most of the refuge's river bottoms, riparian zones, wetlands, forested uplands and prairie are accessible via 680 miles of roads, mostly dirt and gravel. Weather-related travel restrictions are common. Check the FWS site for current information. Seasonal fire restrictions are also common.
In addition to rocky mountain elk, white-tail and mule deer, pronghorn antelope, sage grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, prairie dogs, black-footed ferrets, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, American bison, beaver, cougars, coyotes, porcupines, and more than 236 species of birds, the Charles M. Russell NWR provided a historical home to an array of dinosaurs, including a Tyrannosaurus rex whose fossilized remains were discovered there in 1988. The Fort Peck Interpretive Center and Museum, located 1.5 miles east of Fort Peck on Lower Yellowstone Road, contains a cast of this "Devil Rex" and the two largest aquariums in Montana, featuring native and game fish.