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Spring Meadow State Park

Spring Meadow Spring Meadow wasn't always so beautiful. In the 1940s, a gravel pit and factory were there. Today, there's a lake for swimming or canoeing, grassy fields, trees, and wildlife to enjoy. It's well known for its clear, deep water that rushes up from warm springs under the lake bottom.

Fish, birds, animals, and plants are some of the best things to see at Spring Meadow. From spring and summer until fall, robins, swallows, red-winged blackbirds, and warblers come to nest. Ducks and coots come to swim.

Magpies stick around all year, and are easy to find. They are black and white with tails as long as their bodies. They're noisy and quick to fight other birds that come near them.

Two other birds, the killdeer and spotted sandpiper, come to walk the beach looking for food. The killdeer has a black "necklace" and makes a noise that sounds like its name. To protect its eggs from animals that might eat them, the killdeer will pretend to be wounded and get predators to follow it away from the nest. When the eggs are safe, the killdeer just flies off. The spotted sandpiper is a nervous little bird that flicks its tail up and down all the time. It's brown and white with black stripes around its eyes.

After dark, nighthawks swoop around the lake back and forth, eating hundreds of mosquitoes every night. They can sometimes be seen during the day, but just as it gets dark they make a noise that sounds like "pee-yah" or "peent." They're brown-black with white bars on their wings.

The birds mostly come to visit, but the fish are always there. Cutthroat trout, largemouth bass, sunfish, and perch can be seen swimming around the bridges and shallow areas of the lake. Perch, bass, and trout have long bodies, but the sunfish is round. Perch and bass have round back fins, but the trout's is like a triangle.

Painted turtles also live in the lake, but are easier to find when they're out on rocks or logs, in the sunlight getting warm. Their shells are black or dark green with swirls of yellow.

Squirrels and rabbits are the easiest animals to find at Spring Meadow. Snakes, skunks, and bats have been seen in the area, almost always at night. Bats are smaller than nighthawks, but gulp down five times as many mosquitoes.

Skunks also sleep during the day, coming out to eat berries, bugs, stolen eggs, lizards, and sometimes mice. It's a good idea to keep back from all wild animals, but especially skunks, bats, and snakes. They're not expecting you to be around and if they are out in the daylight they might be sick or scared enough to bite. Stay on the trail and you'll probably never see them.

Of course, a scared skunk can also leave you smelling awful. It can shoot its oily stink up to 15 feet. The smell doesn't go away for days, and sometimes weeks. Snakes can be seen in daylight once in a while, but they mostly stay out of sight.

If you're lucky, you could see muskrats swimming in the lake or walking over logs in the water. They are another animal that is nocturnal (comes out at night), but come out during the day when they're busy building their houses. They look like beavers, but have small rat-like tails instead of paddles.

Muskrats can stay underwater for over 15 minutes and spend most of that time ripping plants out of the lake bottom to eat. They sometimes will eat small fish and frogs. In the clear water of Spring Meadow Lake, you can sometimes see their webbed feet pushing them through the water. They use their tails to steer and can even swim backwards.

Spring Meadow is a great place for picnics, fishing, swimming, canoeing, and watching wildlife. There is a nature trail around the lake with bridges and signs along the way. The park is open all year.

Information courtesy of Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.

How to Find It!

Spring Meadow Lake State Park is located from Helena, on Montana Highway 12 west, north on Joslyn to Country Club Avenue.

For more information and maps visit the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks listing for Spring Meadow State Park.

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