Both packages will consist of a full day float down a section of one of Montana’s finest un-dammed rivers, the Big Hole, as well as a driving tour that will begin and end at the lodge. Our location in the Big Hole Valley is not only a wonderful early spring bird-watching locale, but also has quite a bit of historical value. All days will include a guide experienced in birding and history, lunch, drinks and snacks for the day and all transportation necessary.
The difference between the two-day and three-day package will be a trip to the Red Rock Lake National Wildlife Refuge just south of Dillon, home of the largest trumpeter swan nesting ground in the continental U.S., and considered one of the prettiest wildlife refuges in the nation.
Rates And Booking Information...
Multi-day all inclusive packages based on Multi-day all inclusive packages based on double occupancy
- 2 day / 3 night package at $895 per person based on double occupancy.
- 3 day / 4 night package at $1,095 per person based on double occupancy.
Single Supplement $75.00 per day
When not observing birds, feel free to make yourself at home in the lodge’s main room by the fire, or in the bar. Great Waters Inn is located along the Big Hole River and is a mere stone throw from the water. There are good places to hike right from the lodge or to sit down by the river and read a book. With excellent meals and wine, great company, and comfortable rooms, your stay at Great Waters Inn is sure to be enjoyable.
The best time to observe birds in Southwest Montana will be during the spring into early summer. As mid June winds around, many of the more coveted species have left for different adventures.
For this reason we encourage all trips to booked prior to June. The trumpeter swan activity, including mating, trumpeting, and nesting occurs through the spring with cygnets, or young swans, being born during mid to late June. One other benefit of birding at Great Waters Inn is the ability to float down a section of river and view birds from the water. Many times, birds will not be as skittish when approached by a boat because they do not tend to associate it with a predator or danger. This enables viewers to get closer then they may normally be able to on foot.
Historical Driving Tour
Heading North from the lodge on the frontage road provides an opportunity to see a number of different historical sites that offer great birding opportunities as well. The beauty of the Big Hole River is that its habitat changes dramatically as you move up in elevation and closer to the headwaters. Below is a list of Historical Sites and birds that can be seen prior to summer.
Wise River Scenic Byway
This beautiful scenic drive connects 43 and the Small Town of Wise River to highway 278, just 25 miles East of Dillon. Other than the traditional ranch town of Wise River, and the historical markers along the byway, this road has less historical value than other locations on the driving tour. Birds to look for: Western Tannager, Red Crossbil, Ruby Crowned Kinglet, Golden Crowned Kinglet, Clarks Nutcracker, and the Pine Grosbeak
Big Hole National Battlefield
The site of the famous Nez Perce massacre, this location can be found when continuing on 43 to Wisdom through the town of Wise River. A side road can be taken that ends at the parking lot of the North Fork of the Big Hole. Here a trail leads to the Nez Perce Camp. There are additional hikes to the siege area; Howitzers capture site, the monument, Chief Joseph Pass, and Hogan’s Cabin. Birding opportunities are great along all of the hikes as well as the appeal of some Old West History. Birds to Look for: American Crow, Warbling Viero, yellow Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Macgillivary’s Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, and the rare but special treat of the Boreal Owl.
Big Hole River Float
A day on the Big Hole River with an experienced guide and birder will be the highlight of your stay at Greatwaters Inn. Due to the traditionally higher water levels of the spring, longer floats can be achieved and more miles of riverbank can be scanned for birds. The raft will hold four clients and a guide. There will be mounted binocular stands, comfortable seats, plenty of refreshments, and the flexibility to stop and pull over for any reason. For those that are unfamiliar with the Big Hole River, it is a perfectly safe and calm river with only a few minor riffles. Each guide is trained in CPR and First Aid and knows every bend of the river and what is to come. Your safety and comfort will be our number on priority. The birds that can be seen will range from the species listed above in the Historical section and will depend on which section of river is chosen. In general the lower section of the Big Hole winds through open ranch land and cottonwoods whereas the upper section flows at a higher elevation through coniferous forest. The Big Hole is truly spectacular, a river whose scenery has not changed in a hundred years.
Red Rock National Wildlife Refuge
For those opting for the third day of bird watching, a trip south of Dillon to the Refuge will be just the thing. The refuge is home to 232 different bird species and offers an array of habitat to choose from including: large open water, mudflats, aspens, willows, grass, sagebrush uplands, and stands of evergreen trees all nearby. The late spring and early summer is the prime time to catch the Trumpeter Swan, as well as other waterfowl, mating and nesting throughout the refuge. Their beautiful breeding plumage, majestic call, and overall sheer numbers are a treat that you will not want to pass up. Depending on the regulations, clients can venture out into the lake on boat to observe the nesting and mating pairs from the water. By staying away from the waters edge, less habitat is destroyed, and the birds will often times remain calm. All in all, the decision to visit Red Rock national Wildlife Refuge is not on you will want to pass up. For more information feel free to visit: http://www.fws.gov/redrocks/
Wisdom to FS 945 and Twin Lakes
As you continue on 43 you will reach 278 and the town of Wisdom. From here the journey continues south on 278. About 7 miles south of Wisdom is F.S. road 945 to Twin Lakes. There are a number of driving and hiking options along this road and due the elevation shift different birds species can be observed. Just east of Wisdom the Steel Creek Ranger Cabin and campsite offers an array of forest and sagebrush species. Birds to look for: Sandhill Crane and Savannah Sparrow in irrigated pastures, Northern Harner, Golden Eagle, Red Tailed Hawk, American kestrel, Killdeer, Magpie, Common Raven around sagebrush and forest edges, and Red Breasted Nuthatch, Gray Jay, Clarks Nutcracker, and Dark Eyed Junco in the pines.
Continuing South on 278 leads to the town of Bannack, the regions first territorial capital. This Ghost town is a beautiful place to walk around and see what life was like on the frontier. All of the original houses, and buildings are open and tourists are encouraged to walk around and truly “feel” what it was like to live in this isolated valley. Not only is this old town steeped in history, but also there are a number of birds that call Bannack home for a short part of the year. Birds to look for: Sage Thrasher, Rock Wren, Lazuli Bunting, Bullocks Oriole, Mountain Bluebird, and the Black-Headed Grosbeak