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Recreation Season Begins on Montana's Unique Prairie

The American Prairie Reserve stewards more than 400,000 acres of land on the prairies of northeastern Montana. (Reid Morth/American Prairie Reserve)
The American Prairie Reserve stewards more than 400,000 acres of land on the prairies of northeastern Montana. (Reid Morth/American Prairie Reserve)
June 12, 2019

BOZEMAN, Mont. - With summer around the corner, Montanans have a chance to explore one of the state's most unique landscapes: the prairie.

The American Prairie Reserve in northeastern Montana is a growing conservation project with the goal of safeguarding roughly 3 million acres of public and private lands. Mike Kautz, the organization's director of public access and recreation, said the landscape looks almost the same as it did when Lewis and Clark traveled through more than two centuries ago. Today, it still lends itself to exploration.

"The wide open space and the quiet, the darkness at night - and the variety," he said. "I think many people who haven't visited the plains before picture it being all the same, and making a trip across American Prairie Reserve allows you to realize how varied the landscape is."

APR opened two huts in its hut-to-hut system near the Missouri Breaks last year, and plans to open a third in the fall. Kautz said one of the largest herds of bighorn sheep in the state travels near these huts. Campsites are located throughout the reserve and a roadside campground near the Missouri River is expected to open in late summer.

Kautz said there's a lot of wildlife to see on the reserve, including pronghorn, birds of prey and the prairie's most iconic species - the bison. There's a wide variety of recreation pursuits as well, such as trips on the Missouri River and biking. Kautz said APR is dedicated to building up the recreation infrastructure on the reserve, so there are places to stay and things to do.

"It's really part of our efforts to make sure that APR is contributing to local economies, and we see the recreation economy as one important piece of many thriving communities around the state of Montana," he said. "It's something we hope we can help contribute with this project."

APR stewards more than 400,000 acres between Lewistown and the Fort Belknap Reservation. The area is located next to the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge and Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument.

Information on places to stay is online at

Disclosure: American Prairie Reserve contributes to our fund for reporting on Endangered Species & Wildlife, Public Lands/Wilderness, Sustainable Agriculture. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT