American Prairie is located in a rugged and remote wilderness area.
There is no guarantee of your safety and you are welcome to access American Prairie lands at your own risk. American Prairie is not responsible for any harm done to your vehicle, belongings or person while you are on the prairie.
Please note that the closest hospitals for treatment will likely be in Malta or Lewistown, depending on your location.
- In case of emergency call 911
- For non-emergency situations please call Fergus County Disaster Services: (406) 535-8118 or Phillips County Ambulance Service: (406) 654-2336
GEAR AND SUPPLIES
Prepare for the full range of weather conditions you may encounter during your trip. Read more about what to pack.
CELL PHONE COVERAGE
Please keep in mind the remoteness of the location and lack of cell phone coverage, and be sure to communicate your plans to friends and family before departure. Visitors report some coverage around American Prairie with a very limited number of carriers, including Verizon.
Cell-based map apps like Google Maps are unreliable on American Prairie. Please visit our Maps page for information on how to best navigate the prairie without cell service.
DRIVING ON THE PRAIRIE
Road travel is almost exclusively on gravel and unimproved dirt roads, necessitating high-clearance (at least 8" of clearance), 4-wheel drive vehicles and a reliable spare tire. Many roads are unmarked, so use an odometer to track mileage. With even minimal amounts of precipitation, roads can become slick with mud and impassable. The region is known for “gumbo,” a phenomenon that occurs when rain mixes with bentonite clay found in the soil to form a very slippery and sticky driving surface. Please view our Road & Weather Conditions page and consider the weather forecast in your plans.
FUEL, FOOD & EMERGENCY SERVICES
American Prairie does not have fuel or grocery facilities, emergency care services, or “ranger” type employees. We encourage visitors to plan for supply stops in nearby gateway communities like Lewistown, Zortman, Harlem, Malta and Glasgow. Plan to arrive with a full tank of fuel and enough potable water for your stay. Remember that emergency services could be more than an hour away from your location.
Weather in northeastern Montana can fluctuate dramatically from year to year and even from day to day.
ANIMALS & INSECTS
Do not approach any animal. American Prairie’s bison herd moves freely throughout the Sun Prairie unit, including through the campground on occasion. Please maintain a safe distance of 300 feet as bison can run up to 40 miles per hour. When stressed or threatened, bison display behaviors such as raising their tails, head shaking, and foot stomping.
In addition to using caution around bison, be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to the ground to avoid contact with rattlesnakes, the only venomous snake in the region. Long, loose-fitting pants and over the ankle hiking boots can help protect against snake bites as well as scratches from sagebrush and prickly pear cactus. Ticks, mosquitos, and biting flies are common in spring and early summer – bring repellant and check for ticks after your trip.
American Prairie includes occupied bear habitat. Wildlife officials have confirmed the presence of both black bears and grizzly bears in the region. We encourage all visitors to carry bear mace and know how to use it, secure food in hard-sided buildings or vehicles, hike in groups of 3 or more, and make noise to alert wildlife of your presence.
There are many potential allergens on the prairie, including bees. If you have severe allergies, please be advised that you must carry your own supply of epinephrine. American Prairie does not supply epinephrine, and our first responders and staff do not have permission from the state of Montana to provide epinephrine. We recommend that visitors bring their own epinephrine with enough for more than one dose given American Prairie's remote location.
American Prairie is an animal-friendly destination in more ways than one. Before packing your pet, be prepared and know the risks, including the potential for encounters with wildlife, ticks, and troublesome plants. Pets must be under voice control or on a leash while in the campground or on the trail and may not be left outside unattended. Let's keep the prairie a safe and enjoyable place for all walks of life! For more information, visit Leave No Trace for Pets and review this Dog Hiking Checklist.
Dry conditions, strong winds, and low humidity create potential for grass fires, regardless of season. Wildfires can start from a campfire outside of a designated fire ring, not properly extinguishing a cigarette, and even a vehicle undercarriage. Take care not to park in tall grass during high fire danger as hot exhaust pipes can start fires. Lightning strikes are another common source of fire.