The National Bison Range in Moiese celebrated its 103rd birthday on Monday, but it was refuge visitors who received a gift – a bouquet of wildflowers.
A weekend trip over the 19-mile Red Sleep Mountain Drive revealed the range to be in full bloom. Among the flowers seen were fields of golden arrowleaf balsamroot interspersed with purple larkspur, patches of red prairie smoke, stalks of yellow paintbrush, small white prairie stars, bunches of bluish Jacob’s Ladder and wild hyacinth, and more. Bitterroots have yet to bloom, but their green tendrils are sprouting from rocks near the top of the mountain.
In addition to wildflowers, there was plenty of wildlife to see: Bison, a black bear, pronghorns, deer and a variety of birds. We missed the bighorn sheep, but they’re out there somewhere, too.
If you take a drive up to the Bison Range in the near future, be sure to stretch your legs on the half-mile round-trip Bitterroot Trail and the 1-mile round-trip High Point Trail near the top of the drive. There’s also a mile-long nature trail near the picnic area.
Check out more photos from the Bison Range here.
Here’s a video of a short walk at the National Bison Range.
Description:Large golden flower 2 to 4 inches across, consisting of rayflowers surrounding tubular diskflowers. Stands atop stem 8 to 24 inches tall with hairy, arrow-shaped leaves up to 1 foot long and 6 inches wide growing from base. Found in dry soil of valleys and hills. Blooms late April to July. (Peterson Field Guides – Rocky Mountain Wildflowers, by John J. Craighead, Frank C. Craighead Jr. and Ray J. Davis.)
Recently seen:Waterworks Hill, Mount Sentinel, Pattee Canyon, Blue Mountain and on Red Sleep Mountain at the National Bison Range near Moiese.
The walk:Arrowleaf balsamroot has been blooming for a few weeks and can be seen on most western Montana hillsides. At the National Bison Range off Highway 212 at Moiese, the flowers can be viewed with grand mountain vistas and abundant wildlife such as bison, bears, deer and antelope. Pay the $5 entrance fee at the visitor center and follow the 19-mile Red Sleep Mountain Drive. The road ascends the east side of the mountain to a parking area for the Bitterroot Trail, halfway through the drive. Follow the trail a quarter-mile across an arrowleaf balsamroot-covered hillside to a rocky outcrop. Return to the trailhead and complete the driving loop over and around the north side of the mountain. (The flowers also can be seen along the half-mile High Point Trail to the summit of 4,885-foot Red Sleep Mountain at the top of the drive.)