A Jewel of Boundary County
Boasting one of the biggest attractions for viewing wildlife in their natural habitat in the Inland Northwest, the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge, located five miles west of Bonners Ferry on Riverside Road, has drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors since it was first established in 1965.
The 2,774-acre refuge was developed primarily to provide important habitat and a resting area for migrating waterfowl. More than 300 different species of wildlife can be found on Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge, which show the overall richness and diversity the area holds.
Wetlands, meadows, riparian forests and cultivated agricultural fields (for producing valuable wildlife food crops) are interspersed in the Kootenai Valley bottom adjacent to the west banks of the Kootenai River. Wetlands include open-water ponds, seasonal cattail-bulrush marshes, tree-lined ponds and rushing creeks.
The western portion of the refuge ascends the foothills of the scenic Selkirk Mountains and consists of dense stands of coniferous trees and tranquil riparian forests.
The refuge not only serves as valuable habitat for resident and migratory wildlife, but also provides a nice stopping point for visitors to get out and enjoy some of the vast natural beauty Boundary County has to offer to approximately 20,000 visitors annually. The refuge’s Auto Tour, a 4.5-mile long gravel road offers views of its wetland and grassland habitats as well as Myrtle Creek. The one-way road has three pull-outs and begins at the refuge office, exiting on the county road near the mouth of Deep Creek. The Auto Tour Road is open to licensed vehicles, bicycles and walkers/hikers during daylight hours, year round, weather and road conditions permitting. The road is not plowed in the winter and is open to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Wildlife observation and photography are available from the refuge’s five trails, the Auto Tour Route, the gazebo overlooking Cascade Pond and overlooks along the county road. The kiosk at refuge headquarters is equipped with two spotting scopes and offers good views of Greenwing Pond, Snipe Pond, Waterline Pond and Redhead Pond.
During hunting season, wildlife viewing and photography are allowed in the waterfowl hunting area on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, only waterfowl hunting is permitted. Two hundred thirty bird species and 45 mammals have been observed on the refuge.