Parks and Recreation Areas
If you enjoy traveling about the state, the following areas are just a few of the spots that will provide majestic scenery as well as a place to picnic and relax.
Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex in northwestern Montana covers both sides of the continental divide. The complex consists of three separate wilderness areas: the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the Scapegoat Wilderness and the Great Bear Wilderness. The complex is the third-largest wilderness in the contiguous Unites States and is home to the grizzly bear, lynx, wolverine, deer, elk, gray wolf, moose, black bear, mountain lion, mountain goat and mountainsheep.
Canyon Ferry Recreation Area is on the shores of a lake formed by a Missouri River dam. This area is popular with picnic enthusiasts, campers, boaters and fishermen. Boat-launching facilities are available.
Clark Canyon Reservoir and Barrett’s Diversion Dam is a recreation area south of Dillon. Clark Canyon Reservoir is the site of Camp Fortunate, a significant spot along the Lewis and Clark Trail. The area is ideal for boating and fishing.
Deadman’s Basin lies 29 miles east of Harlowton off U.S. Highway 12. The nearly 2,000-acre irrigation reservoir provides birding, fishing and camping opportunities.
Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in the western U.S. with more than 200 square miles of water. Recreational activities include fishing, sailing, power boating, water skiing, swimming and camping. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks maintains 13 public access sites around the lake, with boat launch, camping, swimming and picnic facilities. West Shore and Wildhorse Island state parks are nearby. The southern half of Flathead Lake is within the boundary of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Flathead Reservation; recreationists must purchase a tribal recreation permit.
Fort Peck Lake Reservoir is Montana’s largest body of water. More than 50 different fish can be found in the 135-mile-long lake, including walleye, northern pike, paddlefish, sauger, lake trout, small mouth bass and Chinook salmon. The lake is surrounded by the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge provides more than a million acres of public land for fishing, hunting, bird-watching, hiking and camping.
Gates of the Mountains is found half way between Yellowstone and Glacier national parks. This historic wilderness site was discovered and named by Lewis and Clark in 1806. Sheer cliffs rise 1,200 feet above the Missouri River, and motor launch trips can be made through the “gates” to lovely picnic grounds.
Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park is an underground wonderland of colorful limestone. Naturally air conditioned with a maintained temperature of 50 degrees year-round, the caverns are electrically lighted, safe and comfortable to visit.
Lost Creek State Park features Lost Creek Falls, where sparkling water cascades over sheer rock in a setting of evergreens, willow and aspens. Lost Creek flows through the bottom of a canyon topped with towering limestone pinnacles.
Makoshika State Park is an outstanding badlands area in eastern Montana where centuries of wind and water have eroded limestone cliffs into strange and wonderful formations. Early morning and late evening sunlight add special charm to the scenery.
Medicine Rocks State Park preserves striking sandstone rock formations — spiral columns, archways, caves and so on. Native Americans once held medicine dances here.
Painted Rocks State Park in Darby is open to picnic fans, boaters, fishermen, swimmers and campers. The park’s name comes from the multihued rocks and cliffs surrounding the Painted Rocks Reservoir.
Thompson Falls State Park is in Clark Fork Valley. Enjoy camping, fishing, swimming, boating, wildlife watching and more. The Thompson Falls Trail, which was recently expanded, runs along the Clark Fork River and connects to the Highway 200 trail into town.
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, remains an awesome natural wonder. Colorful hot springs, geysers, mountains, forests and lakes all provide unmatched beauty. Yellowstone is also an animal-watcher’s paradise, with large herds of bison, elk and deer for your viewing pleasure. The famous bears still live in the park in large numbers as well.
Among the species of fish found in Yellowstone Park are Arctic grayling, mountain whitefish, and cutthroat, brown, brook, rainbow and lake trout (though all native fish must be released unharmed). Several companies offer guided fishing tours within the park. No state fishing license is required within the boundaries of the park during the fishing seasons, however, a Yellowstone National Park fishing permit is required.
The park has a wide range of accommodations available to suit every budget, from campsites to luxurious hotel suites. There are 12 campgrounds with more than 2,000 sites and nine lodges with more than 2,000 rooms at the park.
Three of the five entrances to Yellowstone National Park are in Montana. These are at Cooke City, via U.S. Highway 212; at Gardiner, via U.S. Highway 89; and at West Yellowstone, via U.S. Highway 191 and 287.
For more information, visit www.nps.gov/yell.
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
Glacier National Park is in northwest Montana on the Canada-United States border. The million-acre park straddles the Continental Divide and includes portions of two mountain ranges. Most visitors use the scenic and historic Going-to-the-Sun Road to enter the park; this road is the only road that stretches across the interior of the park. Once you’re inside the park, one of the best ways to see it is by trail. Glacier National Park has more than 700 miles of trails, enabling the adventurer to reach the remote areas on foot or by horseback.
During a visit to Glacier, you may see elk, moose, deer, bear, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, mountain lions and even an occasional grizzly bear. More than 1,200 different species of plants, more than 270 species of birds and nearly 70 species of mammals call the park home. There is no hunting allowed within the park.
The more than 130 named lakes and streams of the park support burbot, northern pike, mountain whitefish, lake whitefish, kokanee salmon, grayling and cutthroat, bull, rainbow and lake trout. Season regulations and possession limits vary throughout the park; visit the website (www.nps.gov/glac) for more information.
Other park activities include camping, biking, cross-country skiing, boating, rafting and more. Ranger-led programs include snowshoe walks, interpretive boat tours and the Native America Speaks program, where Blackfeet, Salish, Kootenai and Pend d’Oreille tribal members share their knowledge of the history and culture of Native America with park visitors.