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National Bison Range
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mini location map2014-07-27
42 by photographer avatartibber
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National Bison RangeWestern, MT
Western, MT
Scenic Drive avatar Jul 27 2014
Scenic Drive19.00 Miles 2,437 AEG
Scenic Drive19.00 Miles   1 Hour   45 Mns   10.86 mph
2,437 ft AEG
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
On our Saturday drive from Priest Lake, ID via Hwy 200 we had hoped to overnite in one of the small towns along the way and near the Bison Range. Well that didn't quite work out as there really isn't a place to stay in any of these small towns and Polson, at the south end of Flathead Lake was booked up per the 3 places we found on my cousin's car GPS. So we ended up driving to Missoula for the night. We had to make several phone calls as it seemed Missoula hotels were pretty booked. We thot we would make it our base of operation to do touristy things for a couple nites but the hotel we stayed at warranted a plan B. So we found a reasonably priced room in Polson for Saturday nite not listed on the car's GPS system.

The day started out with a visit to old Fort Missoula, neither of us Montana natives had ever been and I had lived there for semester of grad school. It really is a great place and we only got thru 1/2 of it before needing to get on the road and head north retracing some of the ground we had driven on the day before. We decided we both had also never been to St Ignatius Mission (it is quite something for the time and day it was created). On our 2008 road trip we had been to the Old Cataldo Mission outside of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho founded by the same Jesuits.

Well at the junction of 93 and 200, I turned west thinking we would head north out of a place called Dixon but as I was driving, I wasn't sure and after reviewing the map, we turned around and went up the 93. Turns out you can get to the range from either direction but this way, we would get to see the mission. So we did our tour of the mission; it is as beautiful :DANCE: on the inside as the pictures I've seen.

Next we take the turn off the 93 to the 212 where you drive around the edge of the Ninepipe NWR. From here there are quite a few bends on this stretch of the road as you head SW and thru the itsy bitsy town of Charlo. Finally we arrived at the Visitors Center where we ate the last part of our sandwich from Clark Fork Pantry, ID. It was one of the best sandwiches I have ever had. Oh, at the Pantry, we also got huck shakes, YUM! We went in and toured the VC. They've done a nice job of that place showing you the bison and how the Indians used all parts of it

With our map in hand and a promise from the caretakers of the VC that we would see bison toward the end of our drive, we headed out passing by this enormous stack of antlers. We gradually make our way up a gravel one way road (Red Sleep Mountain Dr) to great views of the Flathead River and the valley to the north. It really was quite the view :) so we pulled over to get a few shots. Then we headed down into a valley and by a dry creek before turning east. The map you get is interpretive so cousin Connie would read about the points of interest. She is a chokecherry lover and immediately noticed that that bushes along the creek were loaded with chokecherries so we had to stop and grab a couple.

We did spot some Pronghorns and I grabbed a couple pics. We wound our way up now on Summit Rd into the forested area passing by the ELK LANE which is used for roundup/herding purposes. It is a wide barbed wire grassy lane on the side of the hill. Once we got to the top it was stunning. Here there were interpretive signs so we got out to read them and soak in the incredible views of the valley and the tall Mission Mountains :y: . Once again Glacial Lake Missoula was the cause of some of this beauty The Ice Age Floods story continued to be a part of the geological portion of my trip to Montana/Idaho this summer.
The Cordilleran ice sheet advanced into the Idaho Panhandle to the area that is now occupied by Lake Pend Oreille (we were by there yesterday), thus blocking the Clark Fork River (we had also driven alongside that for a good part of our trip yesterday) drainage and causing Glacial Lake Missoula (held as much water at Lake Erie and Lake Ontario combined, 2000 feet deep :o ) to form.

The downhill portion of this trip on Summit Rd was pretty darn steep and switched back and forth before finally getting back to prairie level. Off to our left we could see the rock shelves coming out of the high side of the mountain; well come to find out, that's the old beach line :o of Glacial Lake Missoula (If back in the day we would seriously be under some very deep water at this point). We passed by the bison wallows (big dirt areas) where we saw about a dozen antelope hanging out.

As we now headed west on Winter Dr, you are alongside Mission Creek. Here, wait for it, I spotted some e l k. How 'bout that! My elk jinx might be over. After taking a few pictures, continuing the drive the stars of the show would start appearing, the BISON! They are magnificent beasts to be sure. They were quite active too between the kicking up dirt and little fights and such :) . We probably saw 50 bison or more close by. I did get one excellent zoom shot, because of the backdrop. I got other photos too but this one turned out really good.

It was a great drive. I highly recommend it. One of the people we talked to at the summit even got a nice photo of a couple bears. This is magnificent country in western Montana. I grew up in the Plains and appreciate that too but the west, well those mountains and huge lakes and valleys are really spectacular.

We finished our driving for the day heading back on the 212 to the 93. Neither of us had been on this portion of the 93. We got a great room with a nice view in Polson and ate at the recommended eatery, the bowling alley. The bartender couldn't make martinis but heh, you can't have everything.

Video 1 the start to the summit:
Video 2 from the summit to where the bison and antelope roam:
Bull Thistle
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light
For me, sometimes it's just as much about the journey as the destination.
Oh, and once in awhile, don't forget to look back at the trail you've traveled.
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