Safe Harbor Marsh Preserve is an excellent example of a low elevation freshwater marsh within a broader wetland region. When glaciers retreated from this area, they left behind a remarkable array of ponds, sloughs, marshes, fens and lakes. In fact, the marsh is actually connected by a narrow channel to Flathead Lake. Turns out, it’s also exceptional habitat for birds, making it a great place for birding.
Within the 132-acre preserve, various plant and animal communities radiate out in concentric rings for the open water at the core of the marsh, to the rocky cliffs facing Flathead Lake. It also lies within the boundaries of the Flathead Indian Reservation, an area rich in both biological and cultural resources.
During your visit, you will encounter a variety of habitats, from a broad meadow, cleared by early landowners, to cool fir forests that give way to a community of shrubs and plants as the land becomes drier near the rocky slopes and bluffs. The wetland areas support an array of cattail and bulrush and sedges that attract the preserve’s many avian visitors.
The rich variety of birds is a treat for visitors, ranging from the ducks and geese that inhabit the open water and small islands within it, to the marsh wrens, herons and yellow-headed and red-winged blackbirds that inhabit the marsh edge. You may see, or hear, a variety of other species including flycatchers, thrushes, warblers, chickadees, peewees, nuthatches, sparrows and hummingbirds. Bald eagles are known to nest nearby in spring and Osprey fish the lake.
Besides the birds, keep an eye peeled for signs of beavers, muskrat, mink and marten, or the coyotes that circle the area in search of a meal. You might even spot a black bear raiding the apple trees that still grow in the old meadow.