Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge
|One of the few original homesteads you can see abandoned throughout the valley. |
is located in the mostly undeveloped Centennial Valley near the headwaters of the Missouri River. The 55,775 acre refuge provides essential habitat for many birds, mammals, fish, and a variety of plants. Most importantly, it provides much needed breeding grounds for the endangered Trumpeter Swan.
|Trumpeter Swans. Once nearly hunted to extinction they are slowly making a comeback but habitat loss is a problem.|
Getting to the refuge from West Yellowstone requires driving nearly 35 miles on "improved" dirt roads, though we spend most of the time dodging huge holes. There are no services any where near the refuge so bring what you need in with you. There are two small campgrounds, though one was mostly underwater while Traveler Thirteen and I were there.
|One of the many bodies of water you can find in the refuge.|
It is beautiful and serene here. There are not many official trails here. Visitors are encouraged to use the game trails for hiking and exploration. And the 16,500 acres of lakes and marshes provide their own show with the sheer amount of bird life either nesting or as a stop over on seasonal migration.
We saw trumpeter swans, yellow-headed black birds, red-winged black birds, coots, willets, eared grebes, Franklin's gulls, American avocets, Wigeons, Cinnamon Teals, marsh wrens, red-tailed hawks, cormorants, and a huge great blue heron rookery. We also saw mule deer, elk, and pronghorn.
|Wyoming Ground Squirrel|
We entered from the east and left from the western entrance. We drove west then south to Spencer, Idaho where the Spencer Opal Mines are located. We ate lunch in their cafe. Then we took the "Lost Gold Scenic Drive"
back toward Island Park and then back to West Yellowstone.
|Heron rookery. Those dark things are heron.|
|Yellow-headed black bird|
|Driving. All those dark smudges are dead bugs on the windshield.|
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