At the southern most point of the Rocky Mountain Trench, where the Pleistocene’s glacial assault ground to a halt, the receding ice bled into rich terminal moraine. The melt left behind a vast stretch of bogs, fens and marshes, scattered between pot-holed ponds and islands of grassland.
Today, this place is known as the Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge. Located within the Flathead Indian Reservation in northwest Montana, the 2,062-acre sanctuary hosts a biotic party of plants, insects, fish, reptiles, mammals and birds. The revelry includes megafauna celebrities such as mountain lions, grizzly bears and Rocky Mountain elk, right alongside bald and golden eagles, peregrine and prairie falcons, and the festivities even boast a restored population of trumpeter swans.
Following the Trench through the Crown of the Continent ecosystem, this riparian corridor offers critical nesting habitat, and provides a significant “flyway” for migrating raptors, as well as hundreds of other bird species.
Established in 1921 “as a refuge and breeding ground for native birds,” Ninepipe has no developments or facilities, but apparently mallards, northern shovelers, gadwalls, redheads and ruddy ducks find the accomodations suitable. The sanctuary also serves as a critical staging and breeding area for Canada geese, and provides secure nesting for song sparrows, yellow-headed and red-winged black birds, and pheasants. Others species often spotted include American bitterns, osprey and sora rails.