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National Bison Range partially reopens to the public

COVID-19 concerns closed the refuge in April
National Bison Range
Posted at 8:39 AM, Aug 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-12 12:38:16-04

A popular Western Montana destination has opened back up to the public.

The National Bison Range partially reopened on Monday.

The reopening will be happening in phases after the refuge closed down in early April due to COVID-19 concerns.

The first phase of the reopening will include reopening the auto tour. However, the visitor's center will remain closed for now.

The front gate will be open from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. After 6 p.m., the National Bison Range will be closed and visitors still on tour roads will be asked to head towards the front gate.

  • Red Sleep Mountain Drive: This scenic tour takes around two hours to complete. For the best experience please start the drive BEFORE 4:30 pm. The gate for this drive will close DAILY at 4:30 pm to ensure the safety of visitors and cleaning of vault toilets. There will be no exceptions, plan accordingly.
  • Buffalo Prairie Drive: This scenic tour takes around an hour to complete. For the best experience please start the drive BEFORE 5:00 pm.
  • West Loop: This small loop takes around 15 minutes, for the best experience start before 5:30 pm.

Below is a breakdown of how the National Bison Range is planning its phased reopening:

Initial Phase:

  • The entrance gate will be open from 6 am-6 pm.
  • The auto tour will be open to vehicle visitors.
  • Contract portable toilet and cleanings. Locate portable toilets in the visitor center parking lot through the summer tourist seasons.
  • Keep the eastern Mission Creek Fishing access open, but well signed for hazards such as potential grizzly bears and bison in the area.
  • Keep the Day Use Area and the associated trails closed.
  • Close off (to the public) all facilities within the government quarters and maintenance areas of the Refuge with barricades.
  • Keep the Visitor Center closed; with information to visitors provided through the general NBR brochure, social media, additional developed signage, and website.

Second Phase Additions:

  • Allow volunteers and interns to assist the visitor services maintenance program at NBR
  • Any donation collections will be done through the fee collection box in the visitor center parking lot.

Third Phase Additions:

  • Open the Visitor Center (with restricted access and hours) using the Visitor Services Manager and volunteers with social distancing still in place and limited contact with the visitors.
  • Open the Day Use Area and associated trails.
  • Fee Collection would resume following Secretary of Interior orders.
  • Keep the Red Sleep Mountain Drive open until early October 2020, as per normal operations.