ROAD AND WEATHER CONDITIONS
The northeastern plains of Montana are one of the most remote parts of the lower 48 states.
Much of the travel to and across the Reserve takes place on gravel or unimproved dirt roads that become impassable when wet. Travel across these roads requires preparation and planning.
Though you are on a road and in a vehicle, you should consider yourself in the backcountry; in most cases you are several hours away from emergency response or advanced medical care. We only recommend leaving pavement in a 4x4 or AWD vehicle with at least 8 inches of clearance, with a full fuel tank, and enough drinking water for several days. In the winter roads may drift in, and during the warmer months travel can be impossible when the roads become saturated with rain or snowmelt.
The Reserve is in a region called the Glaciated Plains, and the soil contains the fine clay sediments deposited by retreating glaciers. This clay makes an extremely slippery driving surface called "gumbo" when it's wet, and it hardens almost like concrete as it dries. This requires keeping a close eye on the weather during your trip and planning for extra time if it does rain. Travel over wet roads can be impossible, and local tow services will only retrieve stuck vehicles when conditions have improved. Learn more about gumbo conditions.
This page includes resources to help you plan your trip. Conditions may vary widely within a few miles due to local precipitation. Due to the vast size of the Reserve, we do not offer road reports or specific advice on your travel plans. It is the visitor's responsibility to monitor the weather before and during their trip, and make their own best judgements. We recommend reading the NOAA forecasts linked below for the area you are traveling to, and looking at the sky and ground conditions by viewing the webcams on the PN property and at the Enrico Center (located near Buffalo Camp). In addition, the Montana Department of Transportation maintains a network of road cameras that can be used to view sky and ground conditions in the region.