66th Montana Legislature Passes Seven Bills That Will Help State Parks

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This past winter and early spring Montana's legislative branch convened for nearly four months in Helena to review and pass laws for the state. Legislative sessions only occur once every other year and Montana and their decisions have lasting impacts across the state for years to come.

In 2019, the legislature heard, debated, and ultimately passed seven bills that will affect State Parks in positive ways. We want to share a bit of information about these bills and how they will likely help State Parks in the years to come.

Summary of Bills Benefiting Montana State Parks

House Bill 229: Sponsored by Brad Hamlet: Clarifies that dinosaur bones and fossils are part of surface estate or surface rights not subsurface or mineral rights. This bill makes it clear that paleontological artifacts located in state parks like Makoshika are the property of the State of Montana, not various subsurface rights owners within the parks.

House Bill 423: Sponsored by Edward Buttrey: Provides discounted state park camping opportunities for veterans across Montana. Making camping in State Parks more affordable to veterans is a great outcome and one that we hope will encourage more veterans and their families to get out and explore all the camping options available at our state parks.

House Bill 652: Sponsored by Mike Hopkins: Revises the long-range building infrastructure bonding program and includes approximately $1.3 million dollars for a waterline from the Makoshika State Park Visitor Center to the campground and facilities in Cains Coulee.

House Bill 695: Sponsored by Jim Keane: Appropriates funds to MT Fish, Wildlife and Parks for the purchase of a permanent recreation easement at Big Arm State Park on Flathead Lake. The purchase of this recreational easement settles a decades long challenge facing State Parks as they grappled with how to pay rising annual lease payments to the MT Department of Natural Resources Conservation to operate Big Arm State Park. By law, DNRC is required to charge 5% of assessed property value for an annual lease of State Trust Lands in order to generate revenue for Montana's school system. State Parks could no longer afford the annual lease payments as property values on Flathead Lake have dramatically increased in the past decades. By securing the funds to purchase a permanent recreational easement at the park, MT FWP can ensure access to Big Arm State Park and Flathead Lake in perpetuity.

Senate Bill 24: Sponsored by Terry Gauthier: Provides for a modest increase in the optional Light Motor Vehicle registration fee that benefits State Parks, Fishing Access Sites, Historic Preservation, and trails based recreation across Montana. The optional fee currently provides nearly 40% of the annual operating revenue that State Parks rely on. A modest increase of $3 per vehicle will still allow Montanan's to access one of the largest state parks systems in the country (55 Parks) and 332 Fishing Access Sites without having to worry about paying fees at the park while also providing beneficial funds for trails and historic preservation.

Senate Bill 70: Sponsored by Pat Flowers: Removes Missouri Headwaters State Park from the "primitive parks" designation. Removing Missouri Headwaters from the "primitive parks" list is a critical first step in allowing Park Managers to be more proactive in managing growing demand for recreational opportunities, addressing environmental impacts, complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and ensuring historic preservation at park.

Senate Bill 338: Sponsored by Terry Gauthier: Provides funding for construction of the Montana Heritage Center, the new home for your Montana ­Historical Society. After the Montana Heritage Center is completed in 2025, 6.5% of the 1% bed-tax increase passed as a part of this bill would go to State Parks to provide critical funding for park maintenance, staffing, and visitor services.

The Montana State Parks Foundation worked closely with our partners at Montana State Parks and other non-profit organizations to support the passage of these bills. We would like to thank all of our partners, supporters, and the bill sponsors for their hard work and leadership to help our Parks. However, we couldn't have done it without you, the people who use and love our state parks and choose to help by donating to the Foundation. Thank you for your support. Here's looking forward to a great year and a bright future for Montana's State Parks.

Whitefish Lake State Park

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This week's featured state park, Whitefish Lake, is brought to you by Whitefish Chamber of Commerce!

A quick drive, walk, or bike ride from downtown Whitefish you’ll find Whitefish Lake State Park or just State Park as the locals call it. Part of the Whitefish hiking and biking trail system, this park has something for everyone!

Whitefish Lake is host to 25 campsites made up of a mix of tent only, bike travel, and RV camping.  You’re sure to find what you need if you plan to stay a night or two! Many of the campsites here have a secluded feeling as they’re divided by tall trees. If you plan to bring in your RV or trailer, be aware that RV/trailer length is limited to 40 feet. 

Did you know?

Kids love watching trains move just along the park’s edge near the campground!

Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"Great mountain town getaway"

"Beautiful still water that changes with the seasons."

"Best Lake in Montana"

"Perfect"

"I have been to Whitefish in my dreams"

A new hike and bike campsite is perfect for cyclists traveling along the Great Divide route!

The lake is rarely windy making is the perfect destination for water-skiing and other water activities!

Stand-up paddle boards, kayaks and pedal boats are available to rent June 15-Labor Day from Sea Me Paddle Kayaking Tours, Inc. Be sure to call ahead as hours of operation vary! You can reach them at 406-249-1153.

While the shallow water at the beach isn’t known for swimming, your four-legged friend will love the designated swimming area for dogs!

Giant Springs State Park

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This week's featured state park, Giant Springs, is brought to you by The Reilly Insurance Agency of Great Falls, MT! 

Just outside of Great Falls lies Giant Springs State Park. Originally discovered by Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery Expedition in 1805, Giant Springs is one of the largest freshwater springs in the country.

Did you know?
The spring flows at a rate of 156 million gallons of water per day and is always 54 degrees Fahrenheit!

Multiple bridges cross the crystal clear water the makes up Giant Springs, allowing visitors to peer in and see the growing vegetation and even an occasional fish!

While you won’t find any camping at Giant Springs State Park, you won’t find the park lacking in activities!

Did you know?

The Roe River (also found in Giant Springs State Park) was once listed in the Guinness Book for World Records as the world’s shortest river!

The water found in Giant Springs comes from the Madison Aquifer under the Little Belt Mountains. Because the water stays around 54 degrees year-round, Giant Springs State Park is great to visit regardless of the season! In the winter, the steam rises off of the unfrozen water and birds flock around the warm water, while in the summer, the park is, on average, 20 degrees cooler than the nearby city of Great Falls. 

Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"Best park. Bring nickels for food for the very large trout at the Hatchery. Beautiful area with the shortest river in the world, and the largest freshwater spring!"

"Great place to spend the day. There is plenty of hiking and nice views. There is also good restrooms and a small interpretive center."

"This park is so beautiful! The rivers are lovely, they have a nice path to walk/jog on and the fish pond is fun!"

"The springs are amazing (clearest water you have ever seen), and the fish hatchery is fun to look at. Overall, great place to chill with friends. "

"Beautiful and peaceful place to relax and walk. Loved watching the birds in the water rushing down from the falls."

Elkhorn State Park

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This week's featured state park is Elkhorn, a remote ghost town featuring abandoned buildings that once served miners and prospectors during a silver mining boom in the 1890's.

 Traveling along gravel back-country roads outside of Boulder, you’ll find Elkhorn, a mostly privately owned town and one of the smallest state parks in the Montana.

Did you know?
Three-quarters of a mile up the main road that runs through town (just outside of the state park property) lies the town cemetery where visitors can see the tombstone of Swiss miner Peter Wys who originally discovered the silver veins in Elkhorn Mine!

Rich with mineral deposits, the Boulder Batholith originally drew settlers to the area and led to the establishment of the town of Elkhorn, now considered ghost town.

The 1880s and 1890s were the most populous times for Elkhorn, drawing around 2,500 residents at its peak, but after the Silver Crash of 1893, the town saw a drop of 75 percent of its population in just two months.

In total, the Elkhorn Mine yielded about $14 million in silver.

Only two original buildings still stand (Fraternity Hall and Gillian Hall), but are surprisingly well preserved and an excellent example of frontier architecture.

While only Fraternity and Gillian Hall are still left, there are markers noting remains of where other structures once stood.

Did you know?
According to a current resident, many of those who reside in Elkhorn today are descendants of those who originally lived in the town! 

Elkhorn today is a mix of old and new. In the midst of the two older buildings stand a few new ones as Elkhorn boasts three full-time residents as well as a handful of seasonal ones. 

Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"Great way to see abandoned buildings. A little bit of a trek off the main road, and don't go up to the cemetery if there is snow and you don't have a four wheel drive (yes, we learned this the hard way). It's not entirely abandoned, so be mindful of those who do live there. Lots of abandoned buildings, but also lots that have been reclaimed. Some really cool buildings, we did not get to see the inside of them, though."

"My wife and I love to explore ghost towns in the Old West, especially the ones that are located in such remote areas that few people ever visit them. Like Elkhorn in the Elkhorn Mountans of southwestern Montana. It can only be reached through its neighboring town, Boulder, by taking I-15 at the Boulder exit, continuing seven miles south on Montana State Road 69, then 11 miles north on county graveled road to Elkhorn. While very few buildings of the original town, which was established in 1872, remain standing, a number of cabins have been reoccupied and refurbished. At last count, however, there were only 10 inhabitants. That's a far cry from the glory days when lodes of silver, described by geologists as "supergene enrichments," were initially discovered in the Elkhorn Mountains by Peter Wys, a Swiss immigrant. Six years later, Anton Holter, a pioneer capitalist from Helena, Montana, began developing a mine. Over $14 million in silver was dug out of the mine. In 1890, the Sherman Silver Purchase Act was passed by the U.S. Congress, creating a high demand for Elkhorn's silver. The boom was on. During its peak period, Elkhorn had a population of 2,500, a school, hotel, church, stores, saloons and brothels. Unlike most mining towns, it was inhabited mostly by married European immigrants. In 1893, the Fraternity Hall was constructed for social gatherings. It still remains as one of the most well-preserved buildings in the town. Later, Elkhorn's prosperity wanted as the demand for silver decreased. When railroad service to Elkhorn was halted, most of the inhabitants left. Today, Elkhorn is a Montana State Park."

First People's Buffalo Jump State Park

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This week's featured state park is First Peoples Buffalo Jump.

Located just outside of Ulm, First Peoples Buffalo Jump is one of the largest buffalo jumps in the United States and is known in the archeology community as the most significant buffalo jump in the world!

The Ulm Pishkin as the park is sometimes referred to was used by Native American’s for hundreds of years, you can still find the gathering basin where bison would gather before being forced off of the one-mile long sandstone cliff. At the base of the cliff, 18 feet of compacted buffalo remains have been found, but it can be difficult to make out distinct items like skulls or other bones after so many years

Be sure to spend at least two hours at First Peoples Buffalo Jump to make time for the many activities!


Did you know?

Remnants of the drive lines used to force buffalo off the cliff can still be seen today!

Did you know?
The cliff isn’t incredibly high as too much height would have crushed the buffalo flesh leaving it unusable.

A 6,000 square foot Visitor Center helps to pay homage to both the buffalo and the Native American’s who honor it. Inside you’ll find buffalo culture exhibits, a circle for storytelling, a classroom, gallery and a bookstore! Outside the Visitor Center are an outdoor amphitheater, a few traditional games playing fields, and trails leading to the cliffs above.

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"I enjoy visiting with the staff. They are so friendly and informative about the history of FPBJ. It's a great place to learn so much about the Indian Tribes and plains people who were here hundreds of years ago. I encourage everyone to visit First People's Buffalo Jump!!"

"Excellent interpretive exhibits. A wonderful state Park that Montana in lucky to have. Be sure to take the hike up to the top of the cliff. You can drive to the top if you're unable to walk."

"Very interesting place to visit. The visitors center has good displays and a stuffed bison you can touch. You can drive or hike up above the buffalo jump. It's about 1.5 miles to hike up. There is a toilet at the top and a prairie dog town just off the gravel road at the top."

"Wonderful experience and they have a small but informative museum. Would love to go back someday."

"Very informative site to learn about Native American life and culture in Montana."

Sluice Boxes State Park

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This week's featured state park, Sluice Boxes, is brought to you by Central Montana tourism!

Outside of Belt, you’ll find Sluice Boxes State Park, a unique park that includes Belt Creek Canyon, a creek, and remnants of Montana history.

Did you know?
The Barker Mines and the Montana Central Railroad are part of the history of Sluice Boxes State Park.

Carved by Belt Creek as it comes down from the Little Belt Mountains, the large limestone cliffs and steep ledges are the signatures of Belt Creek Canyon.

Did you know?
By September of 1890, the Central Montana Railroad dropped off fisherman at various locations along Belt Creek in what is now Sluice Boxes State Park.  When Belt Creek was named a blue ribbon trout stream in the 1920s, the railroad ran special “fishing trains” on Sundays.

This area was once home to prospectors searching for precious metals, miners, muleskinners, smelter men and railroaders building bridges. Today, visitors can find the remnants of mines, cabins and a railroad along the banks of Belt Creek in the park.

Sluice Boxes State Park was created in 1974 and included significant historic structures and remnants of the abandoned towns of Riceville and Albright that once existed for the purpose of mining limestone in the canyon.

Belt Creek which formed the canyon that is the centerpiece of the park, has long been popular for outdoor recreation. Citizens of nearby Great Falls began visiting the area for fishing, camping, hunting and other activities as early as 1889 when the railroad connecting silver mines in the Barker and Hughesville mining districts to smelters in Great Falls was completed.

The park is now popular with local visitors, history enthusiasts, fishermen, hikers, and others. The rugged landscape creates dramatic scenery as it contrasts distinctly with the rolling hills and rounded mountains of this part of central Montana.

A walk down the old railroad grade trail will bring you to fishing access, floating, swimming and wildlife viewing. Be aware: steep cliffs, rugged terrain and cold, swift water can pose a risk to visitors, so be sure to take caution!

If you’re looking to camp, you’ll need a Backcountry Campsite Permit. You can contact Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks headquarters in Great Falls to do so.

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In 2017, the Montana State Parks Foundation partnered with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks to begin fundraising and planning for significant improvements to the trails at Sluice Boxes State Park. The Foundation is working with Parks to secure permanent access at the Overlook Trailhead before creating a a durable, safe pathway for visitors to enter the steep canyon and cross a year round spring before connecting with existing park trails. The Foundation will also be assisting Montana FWP in repairing and reopening sections of damaged railroad trestles that have been converted into trails over the years. These trestles are currently closed for the safety of park visitors which prevents the ability of hikers to walk the seven miles of trail from one end of the park to the other.

In the coming year we hope to secure the funds and agreements needed to complete these improvements and enhance the experience for many park visitors. We invite you to join us by making a one time or recurring monthly donation to the Foundation for this project. You can learn more about this project and the other work we are doing for Montana State Parks on our website.

Spring Meadow Lake State Park

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This week's featured state park is Spring Meadow Lake State Park is brought to you by Visit Helena.   

Located west of Helena is Spring Meadow Lake State Park, a day-use park, popular for swimming, sunbathing, fishing and birdwatching.

Spring Meadow Lake State Park is a fed by a natural spring that feeds cool, clean water into the lake that is used for fishing, swimming, non-motorized boating, and even scuba diving.  The lake and the state park land surrounding it were once an active gravel mine that was donated to the state in 1981.

There are great wildlife viewing opportunities at Spring Meadow Lake State Park. You’ll find birds, rabbits, turtles and more!

Looking for a nice walk? A 0.8-mile, self-guided nature trail circles the lake.

If you’re in need of a spot to fish, Spring Meadow Lake is your place. The lake is home to trout, bass and sunfish and there is even an ADA accessible fishing dock added to the park in 2011!

Even in winter Spring Meadow Lake is perfect for recreation. The trail is open all winter and if it’s cold enough you can even fish or skate on the lake!

Unfortunately, your four-legged friend will have to stay home during the warmer months. Between April 15 and October 15 there are no dogs allowed in Spring Meadow Lake State Park.

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Did you know?

The Spring Meadow Lake area is well known for it's bird watching opportunities!

Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"Great place to take the family out for the day and even get some fishing in. Located right in the heart of Helena, it is not out of the way at all and certainly worth a trip even just to hang out for lunch. The view is really nice especially for being right in town that you would never even know."

"Nice local park, with good scenery, walk/running trail, and fishing pond available."

"I love this park. I fished here a lot during the summer. It's a beautiful place."

"One of my favorites for a quick getaway minutes from town. Nice dock and trail improvements for walking and fishing. Super place to take the kids. No pets though from fall thru spring. Wonderful fall colors, and close to Fish, Wildlife and Parks wildlife center, which is great for families."

"Great day on the lake. The staff was very hospitable, too!"

Rosebud Battlefield State Park

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This week's featured state park, Rosebud Battlefield, is brought to you by Visit Billings!

The location of the Battle of Rosebud, this state park is an incredible historical location that shouldn’t be missed!

Did you know?
Rosebud Battlefield is one of the most undeveloped, pristine battlefields in the nation.

While looking for the Sioux and Northern Cheyenne villages of Chief Sitting Bull, Brigadier General George Cook, along with 1000 troops and Crow and Shoshone scouts, were unprepared for an organized attack.

On June 17, 1876, an equal or greater number of warriors led by Sioux Chief Crazy Horse and Cheyenne Chiefs Two Moon, Young Two Moons and Spotted Wolf, attacked the band of soldiers.

One of the largest battles of the Indian Wars, the Battle of Rosebud, or “Where the Girl Saved Her Brother" as referred to by the Northern Cheyenne, lasted for eight hours.

Because Crook’s troops had been withdrawn from the war zone in order to resupply, they were not there to support Colonel Custer at Little Bighorn. The defeat at Little Bighorn by the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne warriors was a shock to the nation and lead to a counter attack and the Lakota’s loss of the Black Hills.

Rosebud Battle State Park is a very significant historic park where visitors can retrace the steps of soldiers and warriors at the site of the largest battle in the history of Montana.

Did you know?

Although the park does not encompass the entirety of the battlefield, the 3,025-acre park has remained nearly the same as it was during the time of the battle in the 1870s.

Did you know?

The battlefield is still used throughout the year by U.S. Armed Forces to study military strategy, including how troops take on an enemy who is familiar with the landscape.

The park includes Kobold Buffalo Jump, a cliff once used by Native Americans and marked with petroglyphs. A short hike within the gap to the cliffs will allow you to see these.

The use of metal detectors, digging and the collecting or removal of artifacts is restricted and bikes are allowed on existing roadways only.

Be very cautious while in the park as rattlesnakes reside in the area!

Although camping isn’t available at Rosebud Battlefield, there is camping available at Tongue River Reservoir State Park only 13 miles south.

Thompson Falls State Park

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This week's featured state park, Thompson Falls, is brought to you by Western Montana's Glacier Country!
 

Located along the Clark Fork River between Thompson Falls Dam and Noxon Dam, Thompson Falls State Park is surrounded by a mature and a mixed conifer forest making for a tranquil and quiet destination.


Families will love the improved fishing pond which includes an accessible fishing pier, picnic shelter, bathroom and improved parking.

Ready to hike away your day? Thompson Falls Trail runs along the Clark Fork River and connects to the Montana Highway 200 into the town of Thompson Falls where you’ll find the Thompson Falls Community Trails network.

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Did you know?

Pike and bass are the most common species fished out of Thompson Falls State Park, but you may find a surprise species if you’re lucky!

While fishing and hiking are popular in Thompson Falls, this state park is used mostly for camping and picnicking. Host to 18 sites and a group picnic area, this riverside campground is great for tent or RV camping, but make sure your trailer is no more than 30 feet!

Let’s get outside!

Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"Awesome area. Great camp hosts."

"Awesome state park. The most kind and helpful staff I have ever met, really nice lake to swim and fish in. Nice washrooms, dish washing station, running water. You can hear the cars on the highway loud and clear but if you can deal with that this is a great camping spot."

"Great for a day or a week. Hosts are great."

"We camp host here. The people are fantastic. The campground is clean,quiet and right on a beautiful lake with great fishing. All sites have electric. There is water, showers and dump station available on site. Boat slips are available and there is a paved boat launch ramp. There is a playground for the kids and a grassy beach area for swimming. Great place to camp."

"Beautiful place!"

Smith River State Park

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This week's focus Smith River State Park is brought to you by Central Montana!

The Smith River is mostly known as wonderful 59 mile long river full of natural beauty with great boating and fishing opportunities. Permits to float the river are highly sought after and distributed through a lottery system similar to hunting licenses for certain big game species in Montana. Smith River State Park is so much more than just a float and you don't need a permit to enjoy some of the great amenities the park has to offer.

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If you weren't lucky enough to win a permit during the annual lottery system, you can still enjoy the Smith River by visiting Camp Baker west of White Sulphur Springs or Eden Bridge 59 miles downriver and just short drive south of Great Falls.  

At Camp Baker, you'll find a campground with primitive campsites, latrine facilities, and a busy boat ramp for  the lucky folks who won launch permits.  After the floating parties have launched for the day Camp Baker becomes quiet for a few hours and visitors will enjoy great access for fishing, birdwatching, and even swimming in the summer months.  

At the other end of the park is Eden Bridge, the normal take out for Smith River float trips.  Eden Bridge is a minimally developed day use site with latrine facilities, a boat ramp, and day use access to the river.  While there are few amenities at Eden Bridge, it does make for a nice day trip destination from Great Falls where visitors have a chance to spend time on the banks of one of Montana's most iconic waterways.  


Many find Smith River State Park a place of peace because a permit is required to float the Smith River. This permit requirement means visitors can expect to have a quality, multi-day float with relative solitude and excellent trout fishing opportunities. Of course you don't need a permit to access the campground and enjoy all the natural slender of the area.

Logan State Park

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This week's focus Logan State Park is brought to you by Western Montana's Glacier Country!

Just off Highway 2 between Libby and Kalispell, you’ll find Logan State Park, a local hotspot. 

Located in the middle of the 3,000-acre Thompson Chain of Lakes, Logan is heavily forested with Western Larch, Douglas-Fir and Ponderosa Pine making for a beautiful view of the tree covered, mountainous area.

Things to do:

✅ Take a dip in the lake and go swimming

✅ Go for a boat ride and find some peace.

✅ You and your friends or family can even play a game of horseshoes!

✅ Take a chance and go water skiing!

✅ More of a fisher? You’ll find loads of salmon, trout, perch, pike, bass!

✅ Plus so much more!

Logan has 37 campsites, but no tent-only sites. RVs and trailers are more than welcome as long as they are no longer than 40 feet. The RV dump station closes in early October.

You’ll even find a playset for the kids and a short nature trail here.

Did you know?

The Thompson Chain of Lakes includes 18 lakes and stretches 20 miles!

Logan
State Park
Quick Facts


Location
77518 US HWY 2

Libby, MT 59923

Park

Open Year-Round
7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Campground

Open Year-Round

Additional Information

Water & Showers Available
Until September 30
Boat Slips Available:
Mid-May to September 30

17 Acres

  • ADA Accessible

  • Pets Allowed

  • Toilets (Flush)

  • Water

  • RV Dump Station

  • Showers

  • Boat Launch

  • Firewood for Sale

  • Picnic Shelter

Medicine Rocks State Park

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This week's focus Medicine Rocks State Park is brought to you by the Miles city Chamber of Commerce!

The Medicine Rocks are a series of natural rock formations considered sacred by local Native American tribes. They are covered in Native Rock Art or Pictographs.

A scenic drive on Montana Highway 7 through rolling hills and prairie, visitors will be amazed by the incredible beauty of Medicine Rocks State Park. As you approach the park you’ll see sandstone pillars, caves archways and towers rising out of the plains with small batches of pine forest in some areas.

 

But how did these formations come to be?

Around 60-million years ago, the Great Plains were covered by an immense sea. The edges of this sea were swamp-like and forested with a shallow river that cut through carrying sediment from the forming Rocky Mountains. Portions of this sediment were deposited along the path of the river creating sandbars.

Over the years, these sandbars turned to sandstone where wind, water and temperature extremes took their toll. The stronger materials stayed while the less resistant material was eroded away. The rock that was able to withstand millions of years of erosion now makes up the odd formations found at Medicine Rocks State Park.

Things to do:

✅ Hike through the prairie and forest or even climb into caves!

✅ Take incredible pictures of the rock formations!

✅ Enjoy a picnic and enjoy the ever-changing landscape!

✅ Keep your eyes open for wildlife including mule deer, antelope, Woodhouse's toads and sharp-tailed grouse!


✅ Camp at one of the 12 rustic campsites!


✅ Stargaze on a clear night or plan a visit during a meteor shower!

 

✅ Plus so many more!

Once you’re in the park, a road twists and turns through rock outcroppings taking visitors to the camping and picnic areas. Many of the formations can be viewed from your vehicle, but exploring the park by foot allows visitors to get up close and personal with these rock formations.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Medicine Rocks is also an important cultural site for Native Americans, once used as a vision quest location, meeting place and lookout for bison or enemies.

Did you know?

Many early settlers and cattle drivers carved their names or initials along with the dates they visited into the rocks. You can still find many of these and a complete list of these names can be found in the nearby Carter County Museum!

Those looking to enjoy the park overnight will find 12 campsites nestled among the Swiss cheese-like rock formations. But be sure to arrive early as all of these sites are first-come, first served.

Did you know?

Theodore Roosevelt visited the area in 1883 and called it “as fantastically beautiful a place as I have ever seen.”

Medicine Rocks
State Park

Location:
1141 Hwy 7

Ekalaka, MT

Park:

Open Year-Round

7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Campground:

Open Year-Round

Additional Information:

Water Available Year-Round

330 Acres

  • Pets Allowed

  • Toilets (Vault)

  • Water

  • Maps

Tower Rock State Park

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This week's focus Tower Rock State Park is brought to you by Central Montana!

Tower Rock, a 424-foot high rock formation which marks the entrance to the Missouri River Canyon in the Adel Mountains Volcanic Field.

Located where the plains and mountains meet you’ll find Tower Rock State Park.

This park’s namesake is an over 400-foot high rock formation along the Missouri River. The tower is made of igneous rock chunks blasted skyward from the Adel Mountain volcano 68 to 75 million years ago and then cemented together by volcanic ash.
 

Things to do at Tower Rock State Park:

✅ Hiking

✅ Photography

✅ Picnicking

✅ Plus so many more!

Visitors can learn about geology and history through five interpretive panels located at the trailhead. The trail to the base of the saddle is maintained for a quarter-mile and if you plan to hike this short trail, be sure to keep your eyes open and listen for rattlesnakes!

Did you know?

This day use only park was once used by Native American tribes to mark the entrance to and exit of the buffalo hunting grounds in north central Montana.

Tower Rock
State Park
Quick Facts

Location:
2325 Old US HWY 91
Cascade, MT 59421

Park Open Year-Round

140 Acres

  • Pets Allowed

  • Toilets (Vault)

  • Maps

Frenchtown Pond State Park

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This week's focus takes us ten miles northwest of Missoula to Frenchtown Pond State Park in Frenchtown, Montana.

The 41-acre day-use state park offers fishing, swimming, and non-motorized boating on a small, spring-fed lake that is up to 18 feet deep in some places. 

Located just off of I-90 in Frenchtown you’ll find Frenchtown Pond State Park, a great day-use park for the whole family.

Be sure to leave your four-legged friends at home though, dogs are not allowed in the park at any time.

Named after the pond it encompasses, Frenchtown Pond State Park is a 40-acre park that holds the 22-acre pond.

The pond itself is spring-fed and has a maximum depth of 18 feet. 

Did you know?

The Garden City Triathalon is held at Frenchtown Pond State Park every year!

Activities at Frenchtown Pond State Park include: 

✅ Boating

✅ Fishing

✅ Ice Skating

✅ Picnicking

✅ Swimming

✅ Wildlife Viewing

✅ Plus so many more!

You’ll find great fishing at Frenchtown with a healthy fish population that includes sunfish, bass and bullhead. 

To help improve the bass habitat, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks has sunk trees to the bottom of the pond. 

You may even see SCUBA divers! The local SCUBA club uses Frenchtown Pond as a practice area and cleans up the bottom of the pond while they’re at it. 

DID YOU KNOW?

Due to the water's depth, warmth and clarity, Frenchtown Pond State Park is a favorite place to practice boardsailing, kayaking, canoeing, and snorkeling.

Frenchtown Pond
State Park
Quick Facts


Park
May 1 to September 30
9 am to 9 pm

October 1 to April 30
6 am to 7 pm

Location
18401 Frenchtown Frontage Road
Frenchtown, MT 59834

Open Year Round 

  • 41 Acres

  • ADA Accessible

  • Toilets (Flush & Vault)

  • Water

  • Picnic Shelter

  • Grills/Fire Rings

Beaverhead Rock State Park

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This week's focus takes us to the 14 miles northeast of Dillon, MT on Montana 41 to Beaverhead Rock State Park, as known as the Point of Rocks by locals.

Beaverhead Rock State Park was the geographic landmark that Sacagawea noted while leading the Corps of Discovery further west. She shared with Lewis that she recognized it as the location where her people, the Shoshones, had been when she was kidnapped as a child several years earlier and would be where her tribe would most likely be found during that time of year.

And in his words: "she says her nation calls the beaver's head from a conceived re[se]mblance of it's figure to the head of that animal..."

In addition to proving to be a critical part of the Lewis and Clark journey, it was also critical to Sacagawea herself, as she recognized the Shoshone Chief, Chief Cameahwait, as her brother and "instantly jumped up, and ran and embraced him, throwing over him her blanket and weeping profusely." 

While on their travels west, Lewis & Clark and the Corps of Discovery were led here by Sacajawea who recognized the landmark as being part of her native homelands. 

Coming across Beaverhead Rock was a great relief for the Corps of Discovery as winter was drawing near and they were eager to acquire the horses they would need to cross the mountains from Native Americans. 

The trail running past the rock has been used for centuries and later became the route for the first cattle drives and then brought settlers and prospectors to the area. 

Did you know?

Beaverhead Rock is on the National Register of Historic Places

Add it to your itinerary today. 

Activities at Beaverhead Rock include:

✅ Cultural

✅ Heritage

✅ History

✅ Photography

✅ Wildlife Viewing

✅ Plus so much more!

Beaverhead Rock can be viewed and photographed from a distance, but cannot be directly accessed. There are two great locations to best see the rock formation, though.

The first is 14 miles south of Twin Bridges on Highway 41 where a pull-off has informational signs and an interesting bird sculpture.

The second location is from another Montana State Park, Clark’s Lookout State Park in Dillon.

Beaverhead Rock
State Park
Quick Facts


Park
Open Year-Round


Location
62 Beaverhead Rock Road
Twin Bridges, MT 59754

Open Year Round 

  • 30 Acres

  • Pack-in/Pack-out

Anaconda Smoke Stack State Park

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This week's focus takes us to the old mining town of Anaconda, MT right off   
I-90 24 miles from Butte, MT to the Anaconda Smoke Stack State Park. 

Situated on top on a hillside of the Anaconda Pintler Mountain Range foothills, you can see this state park from miles around.

As a monument to the nation's period of industrialism, particularly when viewed in conjunction with Butte’s Berkely Pit, it immortalizes the scale of the mining that once dominated and influenced this part of Montana.

Anaconda Smoke Stack State Park is an excellent place for day use.

With the first brick of the chimney set by smelter manager Frederick Laist on  May 24, 1918,  construction was completed on November 30, 1918.

The old Anaconda Copper Company smelter stack is 585 feet tall and clocks in as one of the tallest free-standing brick structures in the world. The inside of the stack is 75 feet wide at the bottom and 60 feet wide at the top. 

Did you know?

The Anaconda Smoke Stack is taller than the Washington Monument by 30 feet. In fact, the Washington Monument would easily fit inside this smoke stack.

Things to do:

✅ Exhibit

✅ Heritage

✅ History

✅ Photography

✅ Plus so many more!

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the smelter closed in 1980.  In 1983, the stack, the smelter, and the other buildings nearby were listed as a Superfund cleanup site.  Efforts to clean up contaminated soils, structures and other mine debris began in the 1980s and are ongoing.  In order to protect the public and limit their liability, the Atlantic Richfield Company closed the area around the stack and public visitation is allowed only during officially organized tours or events.

Much like the smelter and other buildings that used to be located on Smelter Hill nearby, the smokestack was likely to be demolished as part of the Superfund cleanup efforts.  A group of longtime Anaconda residents formed the "Anacondans To Preserve The Stack" committee.  Their efforts led to the preservation of the big stack and they continue to work to find ways to preserve the stack and make it accessible to the public.  Today visitors can view and photograph the stack from a distance.

Interpretive signs describing the history of the stack are located in the viewing site near Goodman Park. 

Montana Public Radio produced a great story about the Anaconda Smoke Stack for it's 100th anniversary in August of 2018. You can listen to and read that story here.

DID YOU KNOW?

In the fall of 2018, the smokestack celebrated its 100th-anniversary!

Anaconda Smoke Stack
State Park
Quick Facts


Park
Open Year-Round
Daylight Hours Only


Location
100 Smelter Road
Anaconda, MT 59711

Les Mason State Park

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This week's focus takes us to Whitefish, MT to the peaceful day-use park located on the east shore of Whitefish Lake.

Boasting 585 feet of sand and gravel lakeshore, this park provides excellent swimming opportunities, for both humans and your four-legged friend.

You'll enjoy cool, clear waters along a smooth cobble beach on Whitefish Lake with shaded picnic tables, great swimming and a spot to launch your canoe or kayak.

Located on the east shore of Whitefish Lake, Les Mason State Park is a great day use spot! With 585 feet of sand and gravel lakeshore, Les Mason is perfect for swimming. 

Did you know?

Looking to bring your canine friend along? There is a designated dog swimming area for your furry friend to enjoy!

Add it to your itinerary today. 

Looking for activities at Les Mason? You can go: 

✅ Bird Watching

✅ Fishing

✅ Boating

✅ Picnicking

✅ Cross-country skiing 

✅ Plus so many more!

Although there is only a non-motorized boat launch at Les Mason, you can still get out on the water!

Open June 15 to Labor Day, Sea Me Paddle Kayaking Tours, Inc offers stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, and pedal boats for rent.

DID YOU KNOW?

Be sure to stick around for sunset! The park is in a perfect position to catch great views as the sun sinks into the mountains across the lake.

Les Mason
State Park
Quick Facts


Park
Open Year-Round
Gates Open Until November 30
8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Gates Closed, Walk-In Only
December 1 - April 26


Location
2650 E. Lake Shore Drive
Whitefish, MT 59937

Open Year Round 

  • 7 Acres

  • Toilets (Vault)

  • Boat Rental

  • Parking

Pictograph State Park

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This week's focus takes us just outside of Billings, MT to an area of three caves that are preserved and protected in the 23-acre Pictograph Cave State Park. 

Along the rimrocks, you'll find where Pictograph Cave has drawn human beings for over 3,000 years and was home to generations of prehistoric hunters. With its abundant wildlife and vegetation, the fertile river valley provided an ideal campsite for travelers.

Inside the three caves, you can find over 2,100-year-old pictographs from some of Montana's first inhabitants. The when and the how they arrived is still a mystery and the pictographs they left behind are still subject to great debate. 

This week's State Parks park showcase is brought to you by Visit Billings.

Located only five miles from Billings, Pictograph Cave State Park may seem small at only 23 acres, but is full to bursting with history.

Did you know?

Due to its archeological significance, Pictograph Cave State Park was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1964.

Thousands of years ago, prehistoric hunters who camped in the Pictograph Cave left behind artifacts and over 100 pictographs. 

The three main caves in the park - Pictograph, Middle and Ghost - were created from the Eagle sandstone cliff by water and wind erosion. The deepest of the caves, Pictograph Cave, is 160 feet wide and 45 feet deep. 

In 1936 the first artifacts and paintings were discovered in the caves. And the next year became one of the first archeologic excavations in Montana.

Roughly 30,000 artifacts were excavated from the site including, stone tools, weapons, paintings, and instruments. These artifacts helped researchers to understand which native people used the caves and when. In addition to tools and animal bones, the excavations also turned up jewelry, pendants, bracelets, and beads crafted of sea shells acquired from Pacific Coast Indians, and in one excavation, discovered barbed harpoon points of the Eskimo culture, made of caribou horn. 

You’ll find pictographs depicting animals, warriors and even rifles! The different colors used in the pictographs allowed researchers to identify when people inhabited the region and gave an inside look into their lifestyle. 

Although you won’t be able to camp in Pictograph Cave State Park you can: 

✅ Transport yourself back in time by exploring the caves.

✅ Check out the Visitor Center and learn more about the history of the caves.

✅ Eat your picnic while gazing out at incredible views.

✅ Don’t forget to pick up a memento from the gift shop!

✅ See if you can spot any wildlife near the caves.

✅ Plus so much more!

The best time to see the pictographs is after rain or a snow melt! The moisture causes the drawings to become more prominent. And you'll to give yourself about an hour to walk the trail with extra time for a picnic and bird watching.

DID YOU KNOW?
The oldest art found at Pictograph Cave State Park is over 2,000 years old and from some of the very first humans on the plains.

Today, the park has a quarter-mile loop trail that leads to the caves. Along the trail you can find interpretive displays that identify and explain the natural features, pictographs and vegetation found near the caves. 

If you’re planning to visit, be sure to bring your binoculars to get the best view of the rock art and be sure to check out the new Visitor’s Center which includes interpretive displays and a gift shop. 

Despite its close proximity to Billings, Pictograph Cave State Park has an abundance of wildlife.

Depending on the season you can see mountain lions, black bears, turkeys, coyotes, porcupines, red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, bald eagles, northern harriers, bobcats, mountain cottontails, rock doves, turkey vultures, mule deer, canyon wrens, magpies, ravens, crows, and chickadees. 

Pictograph
State Park
Quick Facts


Park
Off Season (Third Monday in September - Third Thursday in May)
Open
Wednesday - Sunday 
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Peak Season (Third Friday in May - Third Sunday in September)
Park Open Daily
9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Visitor Center
Off Season
Open Wednesday - Sunday
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Peak Season
Open Daily
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Additional Information
Park and Visitor Center Closed:
Thanksgiving, December 24, 25 & 31 and January 1

Location
3401 Coburn Road
Billings, MT 59101

Open Year Round 

  • Open Year-Round

  • 23 Acres

  • ADA Accessible

  • Pets Allowed

  • Toilets (Flush & Vault)

  • Water

  • Maps

  • Gift Shop

  • Interpretive Display

Tongue River Reservoir State Park

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This week's focus takes us to the southeast border of Montana and 10 minutes outside of Decker, MT to Tongue River Reservoir State Park. 

Tongue River Reservoir is on the Tongue River, a tributary of the Yellowstone River, approximately 265 miles long, that runs through Montana and Wyoming. The park provides a 12-mile long reservoir set in the truly scenic prairie land of southeastern Montana featuring red shale and juniper canyons.

Due to the rareness of large bodies of water like this in prairie country, the park can see up to 50,000 visitors a year.

Camping? Tongue River Reservoir has 81 reservable campsites with electric hookups, and 27 of those are double occupancy with two electric hook-ups.

There are also 80 non-reservable, non-electric sites! Most sites also have a fire ring and picnic table.

There is an RV dump station and water faucets available during peak season. During the offseason there are 11 sites with electricity, these are first-come, first-served. 

Did you know?

Although there are no hiking opportunities at Tongue River, there is hiking available nearby at Rosebud Battlefield State Park or Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument.

Things to do:

✅ Take the boat out on the water! There are two boat ramps with docks, one at Campers Point and one at Pee Wee North. 

✅ Go for a swim! Sand Point has a small beach area for swimming.

✅ Keep your eyes open for wildlife! You may just see osprey, blue herons, deer, antelope or bald eagles. 

✅ Bring your picnic! The designated day-use area has picnic tables at Campers Point and Sand Point. 

✅ Plus so many more!

At 12 miles long, the reservoir makes for excellent fishing any time of year! You’ll find crappie, walleye, bass and northern pike here. You can also fly fish below the dam and there is a fish cleaning station located within the park. 

Forgot anything or just need additional supplies? The marina at Campers Point has firewood, ice, fishing and boating supplies, boat rentals, boat and RV storage, bait, groceries, snacks, drinks, gasoline, souvenirs, fishing, and hunting licenses, and non-resident park passes. 

While summertime may be the most popular time to visit the park, Tongue River Reservoir State Park also features amazing ice fishing and year-round campsites that support just that.

DID YOU KNOW?

Four state record fish have been pulled from Tongue River Reservoir State Park, including a 37 pound Northern Pike?

Tongue River Reservoir
State Park
Quick Facts


Park
Open Year-Round

Campground
Open Year-Round
11 campsites have electricity year round


Location
290 Campers Point
Decker, MT 59025

Open Year Round 

  • 642 Acres

  • ADA Accessible

  • Pets Allowed

  • Toilets (Vault)

  • Water

  • Electricity

  • RV Dump Station

  • Boat Launch

Weekly Parks Showcase: Hell Creek State Park

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This week's focus takes us an hour outside of Jordan, Montana to the most heavily fished water in Montana, Hell Creek State Park. You'll reach Hell Creek, near the end of a 25-mile-long gravel road, through the spectacular scenery of the Missouri Breaks landscape.

On the Hell Creek Arm of Fort Peck Lake, this park provides facilities for most water sports as well as excellent walleye fishing. Fort Peck boasts 1,500 miles of lake shoreline (longer than the entire California coast) and features the surrounding hills of the C. M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge and the Missouri Breaks.

This weeks featured park is brought to you by the Miles City Chamber of Commerce.

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While the road to reach Hell Creek State Park is long, the drive is well worth it! As you travel along a 25-mile gravel road to get into the park, you’ll encounter beautiful, rugged terrain.

Be sure to allow 1-2 hours to travel from Jordan to Hell Creek State Park. And please note, traveling the road between Hell Creek State Park and Jordan is only recommended during dry conditions. Check current and upcoming weather prior to travel.

Did you know?
Lewis & Clark and the Corps of Discovery encountered a grizzly bear near here in 1805.

You won’t be bored at Hell Creek State Park! You can:

✅ Spend your day on the water boating, water skiing or windsurfing!

✅ Summer? Fish from the shore or out on the water!

✅ Winter? Go ice fishing!

✅ Lounge by the lake and take swim!

✅ Hike through the rugged hills surrounding the park!

✅ Plus so much more!

Located on the Hell Creek Arm of Fort Peck Lake, you’ll find excellent facilities for water sports as well as a bounty of walleye, lake trout, northern pike, and small-mouth bass to fish. Plus, there is a fish cleaning station.

Hell Creek Marina, a private marina located within the park, offers bait, groceries, gas and other camping and fishing equipment.

The park also serves as a launching point for boat camping in the wild and scenic Missouri Breaks.

Hell Creek State Park offers 71 campsites, 44 of which have electrical hookups. A group facility is available to reserve for special events

Looking for a hike? You’ll find plenty of trails throughout Hell Creek State Park including the 1 ½ mile loop Mule Deer Trail and the Paleo Trail.

The Paleo Trail is a 3-mile roundtrip hike into the Hellcreek Formation, known for its dinosaur fossils.

Hunting enthusiasts will find their fun at Hell Creek as well! Depending on the season, you’ll find hunting for antelope, elk, mule and white-tailed deer.

DID YOU KNOW?

In 1902, Barnum Brown discovered the world’s first Tyrannosaurus Rexwithin the park and a few years after that a full skeleton was found, including its 6-inch teeth!

The "badlands" surrounding Fort Peck Lake (and Hell Creek State Park) is known as the highly fossiliferous Hell Creek Formation and is a paleontologist's dream. The soil is composed of freshwater clays, mudstones, and sandstones deposited during the last part of the Cretaceous and the Maastrichtian period.

Paleontologists have discovered invertebrates, plants, mammals, fish, reptiles, and amphibians - and dinosaurs as large (and in-tact) as Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops.

During 1999-2010, Jack Horner (Museum of the RockiesBozeman, Montana), Bill Clemens and Mark Goodwin (University of CaliforniaMuseum of Paleontology) and Joseph Harman (University of North Dakota) organized a collaborative, multi-institutional field study program, called The Hell Creek Project.

All the findings from that project, which included 18,000 cataloged specimens, are conserved in perpetuity for the public trust at the Museum of the Rockies and the UC Berkeley Museum of Paleontology.

Hell Creek State Park Quick Facts:

Park Open Year-Round

Campground Open Year-Round

Park Office Open May 15 - October 1 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Additional Information: No potable water before May 15 or after October 1

Location: 2456 Hell Creek Road Jordan, MT 59337

337 Acres
ADA Accessible
Water
Toilets (Flush & Vault)
Electricity
RV Dump Station
RV Hookups
Shower
Boat Launch
Playground

How Does the Foundation Help State Parks Like Hell Creek State Park?

As Montana State Parks only statewide fundraising partner, the Foundation helps to raise awareness, education, and most importantly support boots-on-the-ground improvement projects for users and supporters like you.

As an agency faced with a $22 million maintenance deficit, our work and collaboration help to ensure continued access and solutions currently inside our state park system.

Because in the end, we envision state parks that reflect Montana's renowned outdoor recreation and heritage for all... forever.

Other Ways to Support Montana State Parks

A simple way to help Montana State Parks, each and every year, is through our branded Montana license plates. These feature the famous Monte Dolack Fine Art painting, Placid Lake Sunset, and is an effective way to say "yes" to protecting Montana's public lands by doing what you'd be doing anyway by registering your vehicle.

Ask your local DMV today for your Montana State Parks' license plate.