Benton Lake Wildlife Refuge

Google Maps has made a huge difference in how I pick places to photograph. In the 22 years I lived in Montana as a kid, I never knew Benton Lake Wildlife Refuge existed. Maybe it didn’t back then, I’m not sure. But since I moved back, I’ve been scouring the satellite view of Google Maps looking for places that seem interesting.

Side-note: Lost Lake is another place I didn’t know existed until Google Maps. And I used to live 15 minutes from it. That place is amazing.

Back to Benton Lake… I picked up a new 100-400mm lens, and wanted to test it out. My favorite step-mom is an avid bird photographer, so she suggested Benton Lake.

It was a little late in the season, so the bird selection was somewhat limited, but it was still a great place to try out the new lens.

I can’t wait to go back when the birds come back next year.

These, and all future photos of Benton Lake Wildlife Refuge will live in the project gallery, linked below.

First People’s Buffalo Jump

My mom will outlive us all. She and her service dog walk all over town. To yoga, to classes, to the grocery store. Wherever she needs to go, they walk. They might take a bus in the winter when it’s really cold, but only if it’s really cold. So when she visits, she requires walks.

Mom and Kaiah

The First People’s Buffalo Jump is just down the road from me, so on her last visit we decided to walk the lower loop. I’m almost ashamed to admit I hadn’t actually been to the lower part of the park before. I’ve driven to the top, looked around, even shot some Milky Way shots from the entrance to the upper area. I was looking forward to hiking the lower loop.

Milky Way over Central Montana

I am not in the same shape as my mom. Neither is my dog. So when we realized the trail starts off uphill, we were questioning our life choices. But it wasn’t bad. It was actually an awesome little hike. I had the camera out, hoping to get a shot of a rattlesnake, but we saw none. The second half (the downhill part,) makes for a nice leisurely stroll.

It’s a fun loop hike

My only advice would be to bring water, and watch for snakes. We may not have seen any, but it’s perfect terrain for rattlers. From a distance, they’re beautiful creatures. Just don’t try to pet them.

Heading West on the loop trail, Square Butte in the distance

If you’re feeling froggy, walk all the way up to the top and check out the prairie dog town. If you’re not feeling froggy, just drive around to the top of the park via Ulm Vaughn Road and check out the prairie dog town that way.

If you’re visiting in the winter, pay attention to the winter hours. Sometimes the upper area gate is closed in the winter–it depends on how much snow they get.

There’s a visitor center at the bottom, and a bathroom up on top. The park is open every day in the summer from 8am to 6pm, and 10am to 4pm Monday through Saturday, 12pm to 4pm Sunday in the winter. It’s definitely worth the short drive from Great Falls.

More photos will be added to the project gallery as I take them.