Adventures at Slippery Ann

Adventures at Slippery Ann

View the elk at Slippery Ann

Elk have been gathering every fall on the Missouri River bottom for ages, and for the past several years, people have been gathering there as well to watch them. The Slippery Ann Elk Viewing Area near the Fred Robinson Bridge on the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge is open each fall to view the annual ritual.

See the bull elk gather their harems of cows and compete with other bulls for the opportunity to breed. Although their actions are driven by instinct, the elk seem to know they are putting on a show. The old bulls chase away the younger bulls - which watch for any opportunity to steal a cow away. There’s a lot of running to and fro, bluster and bugling and some major drama when the bulls battle with their horns.

Today there are an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 elk on the Refuge. The rut extends from about the first week of September through the second week of October. Dusk is the best time to see them but visitors should get there about an hour before sunset. Vehicles can pull off in parking spaces to view the elk. People should remain at the road’s edge and not walk into the closed area or attempt to get closer to the elk, as well as keep pets leashed. Use of an artificial light to spotlight wildlife is prohibited but binoculars, scopes or telephoto cameras are welcome.

Visitors can expect to see 250 to 350 elk at the peak of the rut. The animals gather at the Slippery Ann area because it was once a CMR administrative headquarters area and, as such, was off limits to hunting. Since their re-introduction to the Refuge, the elk have felt secure there.

To see them, drive to the viewing area or take a bus sponsored by Central Montana Community Education. The bus tours are offered several times in late September and the first week of October; the bus leaves from the Fergus High School parking lot at 4 p.m. and returns about 9:00 p.m. Those taking the bus are encouraged to bring a lunch, binoculars and folding chair.

To drive from Lewistown, head north on Highway 191 through Roy. Stay on Highway 191 and continue north to the Fred Robinson Bridge. Past the bridge, take the first right and head east at the Wildlife Viewing sign. Travel along the gravel road for about five miles.