This state-owned wildlife management area consists of four ponds dredged in the 1970s at the south end of Canyon Ferry Reservoir, which is an impoundment of the Missouri River. More than 300 small islands were constructed in the ponds to provide nesting substrates for birds.

{link:For IBA map, click here.|}

Ornithological Summary

Canyon Ferry supports one of only four breeding colonies of American White Pelicans in the state. The colony was discovered in 1989, when 13 nests were counted. It has grown substantially since then, with 1,804 nests tallied in 2000. From 1991 to 1996, 1,537 young pelicans were banded here. Double-crested Cormorants, Ring-billed Gulls, and Caspian Terns also nest on the islands.

Conservation Issues

No boats are permitted on the ponds from 1 March to 31 August to reduce disturbance to nesting birds. However, boat traffic on the lake, where many of the nesting waterbird forage, is increasing as the human population in the Helena Valley is growing. Noxious weeds are a problem on the islands.


The IBA is a wildlife management area owned by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Stay abreast of Audubon

Our email newsletter shares the latest programs and initiatives.