In 1935, most of the trumpeter swan population was located near Yellowstone National Park but had less than 70 swans. Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge was established within the swan territory to help increase that population. At last count, because of the Refuge, there are more than 46,000 swans in North America. In addition to swans at the Refuge, cranes, falcons, eagles and 230 other bird species call it home. Fall is perfect for bird watching when up to 50,000 ducks and 2,000 swans gather, so be sure to bring your binoculars when you visit.
Before the park was established and attracted thousands of migratory birds, the area was home to the Monida-Yellowstone stagecoach line. The line transported passengers from the different railroad stations in Monida, West Yellowstone and Henry’s Lake. However, in 1917 the stagecoach line ended when it was replaced by automobiles.
Over the years, the management of the Refuge has worked to restore the area to its natural state. Red Rock Lakes is now considered a National Natural Landmark to the point that humans no longer have a big impact on its environment. The low impact encourages wildlife to exist in a safe, natural habitat that is hard to come by.
When you visit, be prepared to be surrounded by the peaceful landscape due to no electricity or other services in either of the two campgrounds. The Upper Lake Campground is perfect if you go hiking because of the vicinity to mountain trails. The River Marsh Campground is located in an open field and has the best views for bird watching. Besides birding, there are also hunting and fishing opportunities for certain animals on the Refuge.
The Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge provides a peaceful getaway and the opportunity to experience the beauty of raw nature in a true wilderness setting.
The Refuge is located about 1.5 hours from Monida, Montana, and less than two hours from West Yellowstone. Fill your tank before heading to the refuge—there are no services—and the road through the Refuge is not paved, so it is slow going, giving you an opportunity to take in the surrounding wilderness.